The anti-predator role of within-nest emergence synchrony in sea turtle hatchlings

Santos Robson, Hudson Pinheiro, Agnaldo Martins, Pablo Riul, Soraya Bruno, Fredric Janzen, Christos C Ioannou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

34 Citations (Scopus)
251 Downloads (Pure)


Group formation is a common behavior among prey species. In egg-laying animals, despite the various factors which promote intra-clutch variation that leads to asynchronous hatching and emergence from nests, synchronous hatching and emergence occurs in many taxa. This synchrony may be adaptive by reducing predation risk, but few data are available in any natural system, even for iconic examples of the anti-predator function of group formation. Here, we show for the first time that increased group size (number of hatchlings emerging together from a nest) reduces green turtle (Chelonia mydas) hatchling predation. This effect was only observed earlier in the night when predation pressure was greatest, indicated by the greatest predator abundance and a smaller proportion of predators preoccupied with consuming captured prey. Further analysis revealed that the effect of time of day was due to the number of hatchlings already killed in an evening; this, along with the apparent lack of other anti-predatory mechanisms for grouping, suggests synchronous emergence from a nest appears to swamp predators, resulting in an attack abatement effect. Using a system with relatively pristine conditions for turtle hatchlings and their predators provides a more realistic environmental context within which intra-nest synchronous emergence may have evolved.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20160697
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1834
Early online date6 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2016


  • sea turtles
  • anti-predator behaviour
  • predation risk
  • synchronous hatching
  • attack abatement
  • dilution effect

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