Turtles are linked to energetic food webs as both consumers of plants and animals and prey for many species. Turtle biomass in freshwater systems can be an order of magnitude greater than that of endotherms. Therefore, declines in freshwater turtle populations can change energy transfer in freshwater systems. Here we report on a mark–recapture study at a lake and adjacent borrow pit in a relict tract of bottomland hardwood forest in the Mississippi River floodplain in southeast Missouri, which was designed to gather baseline data, including sex ratio, size structure, and population size, density, and biomass, for the freshwater turtle population. Using a variety of capture methods, we captured seven species of freshwater turtles (snapping turtle Chelydra serpentina; red-eared slider Trachemys scripta; southern painted turtle Chrysemys dorsalis; river cooter Pseudemys concinna; false map turtle Graptemys pseudogeographica; eastern musk turtle Sternotherus odoratus; spiny softshell Apalone spinifera) comprising four families (Chelydridae, Emydidae, Kinosternidae, Trinoychidae). With the exception of red-eared sliders, nearly all individuals captured were adults. Most turtles were captured by baited hoop-nets, and this was the only capture method that caught all seven species. The unbaited fyke net was very successful in the borrow pit, but only captured four of the seven species. Basking traps and deep-water crawfish nets had minimal success. Red-eared sliders had the greatest population estimate (2,675), density (205/ha), and biomass (178 kg/ha). Two species exhibited a sex-ratio bias: snapping turtles C. serpentina in favor of males, and spiny softshells A. spinifera in favor of females.
Additional Publication Details
The aquatic turtle assemblage inhabiting a highly altered landscape in southeast Missouri