Assessing the diet of the endangered Beale’s eyed turtle (Sacalia bealei) using faecal content and stable isotope analyses: Implications for conservation

Yik Hei SUNG*, Jia Huan LIEW, Hoi Kin CHAN, Wing‐Ho LEE, Billy Ho-Fung WONG, Caroline DINGLE, Nancy E. KARRAKER, Jonathan J. FONG, Ricky-John SPENCER

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

Abstract

1. Turtles from Asia are on the brink of extinction with 53% of species considered endangered or critically endangered. Unfortunately, the ecology of many threatened species remains largely unknown.

2. In this study, the diet of the endangered Beale’s eyed turtle (Sacalia bealei) was investigated using two methods, visual faecal content analysis and stable isotope analysis.

3. Results from both methods indicated that S. bealei is highly reliant on riparian resources, especially fruits and terrestrial insects. Stable isotope data indicated that terrestrial resources made up around half (47–53%) of all assimilated food resources. These findings suggest that S. bealei facilitates energy flow from riparian forests to stream ecosystems. Moreover, S. bealei is likely to be a seed disperser for riparian plants.

4. This study represents the first application of stable isotope methods to examine the diet of Asian freshwater turtles and their resource use. We stress the importance of similar studies to improve our understanding of remnant turtle populations before they disappear as a result of human activities.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems
Early online date11 Aug 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was supported by Environment and Conservation Fund (ECF 2017‐04) and Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong (RP01.1516 and RP01.1718). We are grateful to Lily Ng, Franco Ka‐Wah Leung, Wing Sing Chan, Ho Nam Ng, Henry Lee and Sum Leung for their assistance in the field and laboratory. We thank Chiu Pang and Kay Law for seed identification. We also thank Chris KC Wong and Eryn Ng for administrative support. We are grateful to Itzue Caviedes‐Solis for comments on the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Keywords

  • Allochthonous resource
  • Asian turtle crisis
  • chelonian
  • ecological role
  • foraging ecology
  • freshwater stream
  • Hong Kong

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