Sexual dimorphism, deformations, and epibionts of Phrynops tuberosus (Testudines, Chelidae)

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Studies focusing on the natural history of species are essential for developing effective conservation measures and evaluating ecological hypotheses. To this end, we describe natural history data of the Cotinga River toadhead turtle, Phrynops tuberosus, in the Banabuiú River in Ceará, Brazil, and evaluated sexual dimorphism, epibionts, and mutilation effects. We hand-captured 134 individuals by snorkeling, over a period of one year, resulting in the capture of 94 males, 24 females, and 16 juveniles. Females had larger head width and body mass than males, while males had longer tail length. One quarter of the turtles captured had some sort of injury or deformation, most common injuries being missing claws, mutilations, and shell deformations. We found no difference in body condition index between mutilated and non-mutilated animals. Mollusks, insects, and leeches were found as epibionts on P. tuberosus and most of the captured turtles had extensive algal cover. Future studies should focus on understanding the effect of mutilations on animal fitness and reproductive success.

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Figures

  • Sexual dimorphism in head width (HW, panel A), tail length (TL, panel B) and body mass (BM, panel C) of Phrynops tuberosus captured in the Banabuiú River, Ceará, Brazil. We used plastron length (PL) as a covariate in the Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA) models. The measured variables were log-transformed (log10) in order to improve normality, homoscedasticity, and linearity. Open circles and full lines (males); black triangles and dotted lines (females).

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