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Lighting the way: Towards reducing misorientation of olive ridley hatchlings due to artificial lighting at Rushikulya, India

Karnad, Divya and Isvaran, Kavita and Kar, Chandrasekhar S and Shanker, Kartik (2009) Lighting the way: Towards reducing misorientation of olive ridley hatchlings due to artificial lighting at Rushikulya, India. In: Biological Conservation, 142 (10). pp. 2083-2088.

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Sea-finding behavior in sea turtle hatchlings is modified by the visual cues provided by artificial beach front lighting. The consequent landward movement of hatchlings in response to coastal electric lighting reduces their survival rates. We assessed the potential impact of coastal lighting at Rushikulya, an important mass nesting site of the olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) in the Indian Ocean region. We examined the response of hatchlings to light characteristics in an experimental setup, as well as to the existing lighting regimes along the beach, using arena trials. Previous studies on other species indicate preferential orientation towards low wavelength and high intensity light. Our study confirms these preferences among hatchlings from the Indian Ocean population of olive ridleys. In addition we also found that wavelength and intensity could have an interactive effect upon hatchling orientation. Hatchlings at the study site respond both to visible point sources of light and to sheer glows of light. Though beach plantations of introduced Casuarina equisetifolia are generally considered to have negative impacts on sea turtle nesting beaches, we found that they acted as an effective light barrier when planted about 50 m away from the high tide line. We developed a model of the expected impact of artificial lighting on hatchling orientation during mass hatching events of previous years, and predict as much as 50% misorientation in some years. We also developed a map representing the misorientation of hatchlings due to artificial lighting based on arena trials in different regions of the beach. The results of the study helped identify focal areas for light management on the beach, which could be critical for the survival of this population.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publication: Biological Conservation
Publisher: Elsevier Science
Additional Information: Copyright of this article belongs to Elsevier Science
Keywords: Casuarina equisetifolia;Intensity;Lepidochelys olivacea; Light barrier;Sea-finding;Wavelength
Department/Centre: Division of Biological Sciences > Centre for Ecological Sciences
Date Deposited: 13 Dec 2009 10:21
Last Modified: 19 Sep 2010 05:46
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/23675

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