The imprinting hypothesis and sea turtle reproduction

TitleThe imprinting hypothesis and sea turtle reproduction
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1982
AuthorsOwens, D. W., Grassman M. A., & Hendrickson J. R.
Refereed DesignationRefereed

Carr proposed that sea turtles learn characteristic components of their natal beach early in life. Keen olfaction and possibly other senses would then be used for the return to their natal beach for nesting. Verification of this hypothesis, using experiments designed to "artificially imprint" turtles to a new beach, has been hampered by several aspects of sea turtle life-history. Laboratory tests suggest that loggerheads (Caretta caretta) will acquire a food preference and that this preference has an olfactory component, but that food imprinting does not occur because preference for the initial food is lost rapidly. A preliminary laboratory attempt at "artificially imprinting" on chemical cues is equivocal. An alternative to the imprinting hypothesis is a "social facilitation model" proposed by Hendrickson. This hypothesis supposes sociality for maturing turles in which first-time nesters encounter and follow experienced adults to the nesting beach, which they "learn" by olfactory and other navigation systems. The latter model appears to have parsimonious attributes, thus warranting increased consideration for at least some populations.