Observational Studies: Texas Firsts

Tracks on the beach leading from the water to the dunes about 5 feet in width from a sea turtle dragging its body across the sand. A 5 gallon bucket rests in the trackway and acts as a visual scale.
Tracks from a leatherback sea turtle nesting at Padre Island National Seashore. Note, 5 gallon bucket for scale.

NPS Photo.

Staff with the Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery have made observations and reported on several Texas “firsts” at Padre Island National Seashore. They have documented the first green sea turtle nest along the Texas coast (although historic nesting has been suspected) in 1987 and the first hawksbill sea turtle nest in Texas in 1998 (Shaver and Amos 1988, Shaver 1989, Shaver and Frandsen 2019). Also, a leatherback sea turtle nest was reported in 2008 for the first time in Texas since the 1920s and 1930s (Shaver et al. 2019). In 1991, Kemp’s ridley sea turtles were documented for the first time within the inshore waters of Willacy County (including the Mansfield Channel and lower Laguna Madre) and a pair of turtles was observed mating (Shaver 1992).

Staff observations also document sea turtle mortalities. Since all sea turtle species are endangered or threatened, investigations of sea turtle mortalities are important for species management. From 2015 to 2016, Division staff reported the first sea turtle mortality in Texas attributed to brevetoxicosis, a toxin associated with the marine dinoflagellate, Karenia brevis, also known as ‘red tide’ (Walker et al. 2018). In 2011, staff observed the first incidence of coyote predation on a nesting Kemp’s ridley sea turtle (Shaver et al. 2020). Finally, in 2019, Division staff documented the first sea turtle fatality in the Gulf of Mexico resulting from entanglement in a drifting fish aggregating device, or dFAD (Purvin et al., 2020).


Literature Cited:

Purvin, C.M., M.R. Villalba-Guerra, H.R. Frandsen, and D.J. Shaver. 2020. Chelonia mydas (green sea turtle). Incidental capture. Herpetological Review. 51(2):311–312.

Shaver, D.J. 1989. Green sea turtle geographic distribution. Herpetological Review. 20(1):14.

Shaver, D.J. 1992. Lepidochelys kempii (Kemp’s ridley sea turtle) reproduction. Herpetological Review. 23(2) 59.

Shaver, D.J. and A.F. Amos. 1988. Sea turtle nesting on Texas beaches in 1987. Marine Turtle Newsletter. 42:7–9.

Shaver, D.J. and H.R. Frandsen. 2019. Dermochelys coriacea (Leatherback sea turtle) nesting. Herpetological Review. 50(2):350.

Shaver, D.J., H.R. Frandsen, and J.S. Walker. 2019. Eretmochelys imbricate (Hawksbill sea turtle) nesting. Herpetological Review. 50(2):350–351.

Shaver, D.J., H.R. Frandsen, and J.S. Walker. 2020. Lepidochelys kempii (Kemp’s ridley sea turtle) predation. Herpetological Review. 51(1):110–111.

Walker, J.S., D.J. Shaver, B.A. Stacy, L.J. Flewelling, M.H. Broadwater, and Z. Wang. 2018. Brevetoxin exposure in sea turtles in south Texas (USA) during Karenia brevis red tide. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms. 127:145–150.


Last updated: December 3, 2020

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