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Reproductive dynamics of a tropical freshwater crocodilian: Morelet's crocodile in northern Belize

Authors

  • S. G. Platt,

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, Clemson University, Clemson, SC, USA
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    • *Current address: Department of Biology, Box C-64, Sul Ross State University, Alpine, TX 79832, USA.

  • T. R. Rainwater,

    1. Department of Environmental Toxicology, The Institute of Environmental and Human Health, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX, USA
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  • J. B. Thorbjarnarson,

    1. Wildlife Conservation Society, Bronx, NY, USA
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  • S. T. McMurry

    1. Department of Environmental Toxicology, The Institute of Environmental and Human Health, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX, USA
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    • Current address: Department of Zoology, Oklahoma State University, 430 LSW, Stillwater, OK 74074, USA.


  • Editor: Tim Halliday

Correspondence
Thomas R. Rainwater. Current address: 155 Johnson Ferry Road, Marietta, GA 30068, USA.
Email: trrainwater@gmail.com

Abstract

Morelet's crocodile Crocodylus moreletii has not been well-studied and many aspects of its life history are unknown. In particular there is a notable paucity of information on nesting and reproductive ecology. We studied the nesting ecology of Morelet's crocodile in northern Belize from 1992 through 1995. Nesting occurs at the onset of the wet season in mid-June and continues through mid-July (mean oviposition date =1 July±10 days). Eggs hatch from mid-August through mid- to late September. Nesting effort at our primary study site remained relatively constant during 1992, 1993 and 1995, but nearly doubled in 1994; this appeared to reflect a regional trend. Natural and man-made islands are heavily used as nesting sites. Nesting success in 1993 and 1994 was consistently higher on natural islands when compared with man-made islands or shoreline sites. Nest losses were primarily due to flooding and raccoon Procyon lotor predation. Losses from predation were greatest in 1994 when unseasonably low water levels facilitated predator access to nests. Females probably reach sexual maturity in 7–8 years after attaining a total length of 150 cm. Mean clutch size (25.0±7.6; range=9–42; n=73) did not differ among years. Mean clutch size, egg width (EW), egg length, egg mass (EM) and clutch mass were positively correlated with female snout–vent length (SVL). Mean EW was the best predictor of female SVL. A partial correlation analysis of egg and clutch attributes found that independent of female SVL, EM increases with increasing clutch size.

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