Guzman, Alejandra (2008-05). Bite performance and feeding kinematics in loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) within the context of longline fishery interactions. Master's Thesis.
Feeding biomechanics and foraging behavior are likely contributors to loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) bycatch in the pelagic longline fishery. To investigate these contributions, loggerhead bite performance was measured in several size classes of captive-reared juveniles, captive sub-adults and adults, as well as wild loggerheads. A kinematic study was conducted to investigate loggerhead interactions with modified longline hooks. Kinematic and behavioral variables were assessed in relation to five longline hooks to determine if loggerhead feeding behavior is modulated relative to hook type, size, and offset. The bite force study demonstrated that mean maximum post-hatchling bite force was 2.5N and mass was the best predictor of post-hatchling bite force. Mean maximum bite force of juveniles with mean straight carapace length (SCL) of 12, 31, 44, and 65 cm were 27, 152, 343, and 374 N, respectively. Sub-adult and adult mean maximum bite force was 575 N. Maximum bite force had a positive linear relationship with all head and body morphometrics (P<0.001). Carapace width was the best predictor of bite force throughout ontogeny. The kinematic study demonstrated no differences between hook treatments in all kinematic variables analyzed. The results of this study suggest loggerhead feeding behavior may be stereotypical. Only 33% of all interactions resulted in "hooking" events. "Hooking" was lowest in 16 gage circle hooks with no offset and the 18 gage circle hooks with 10?offset which may be indicative of a lower possibility of the turtle drowning. "Hooking" was highest in the 16 gage circle hooks with 10?offset. The proportion of turtles "hooked" in the mouth was significantly greater than those "hooked" in the throat (P=0.001). Sixteen gage circle hooks with 10? offset had the highest percentage of throat "hooking", and the 18 gage circle hooks without offset resulted in the lowest percentage of throat hooking. When interacting with J hooks with a 25? offset (9 gage), turtles mostly oriented their head away from the hook offset; however, when interacting with the 16 and 18 gage circle hooks with 10? offset, turtles mostly oriented their heads toward the hook offset. These data suggest that turtles may distinguish between small and large offsets, and may modulate their feeding behavior accordingly. Alternatively, turtles may be detecting hook size or hook shape. A more thorough characterization of loggerhead bite performance and feeding kinematics will be useful when developing or modifying longline fishery gear aimed at reducing loggerhead bycatch.