Distribution and abundance of the Mississippi diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin pileata) along coastal Mobile County, Alabama.
Nelson, David*,1, Borden, Joel1, Langford, Gabriel2, 1 University of South Alabama, Mobile, AL2 University of Nebraska - Lincoln, Lincoln, NE
ABSTRACT- Diamondback terrapins were sampled from April to August 2004 and from May to August 2005, along the southwestern coast of Alabama (Mobile County) from Bayou Heron to Cedar Point. Several trapping techniques were utilized: pitfall traps, modified crab traps, hoop traps, box traps, and nest depredation surveys. Terrapins were individually marked (notching marginal scutes), weighed, and measured (carapace length, carapace width, shell height, plastron length, tail length, and head width). Females were palpated for eggs; anomalies were noted (predation marks, propeller scars, barnacle and oyster fouling), and all individuals were digitally photographed. Our goal was to systematically document the abundance and distribution of terrapins in Alabama coastal waters. Only twenty-eight adults were captured (19 females, 8 males, 1 juvenile) over the two sampling seasons. Eight hatchlings were also encountered, although two were found dead. Terrapin populations appear to be sparse and isolated along coastal Alabama. The terrapin is currently listed as a "Priority One" species (highest conservation concern) by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Apparently, Alabama populations of terrapins have not recovered from excessive harvesting of the past. Further research is needed to identify current threats to terrapin populations in Alabama and to provide for the conservation of the species in its natural habitat.
Key words: Malaclemys terrapin
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