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Larvae of two signal fly species (Diptera:Platystomatidae), Duomyia foliata McAlpine and Plagiostenopterina enderleini Hendel, are scavengers of sea turtle eggs
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by S Hall, Clifford ParmenterClifford Parmenter
Dipteran larvae are known to infest turtle eggs. However, the few studies conducted on this topic havepresented conflicting conclusions as to whether the larvae function as scavengers of necrotic nest material or as eggand hatchling predators. These two very different roles in the nest will have equally different effects on thesubsequent hatch and emergence success of affected sea turtle nests. The association between dipteran larvae andsea turtle nest invasion was investigated by measuring rates of infestation in excavated green (Chelonia mydas) andloggerhead (Caretta caretta) sea turtle nests at field sites in central Queensland, Australia. Excavations wereperformed within 24 h of hatchling emergence, and necrotic embryos and dead hatchlings were found to be infestedwith two larval species of the Platystomatidae: Plagiostenopterina enderleini and Duomyia foliata. This workrepresents the first description of the association between these dipteran species and sea turtle nests, and a newgeographic collection record for D. foliata. High rookery infestation rates versus low prevalence of propaguleinfestation suggest that the larvae preferentially infest dead embryos. The fact that some pipped hatchlings weredevoured in-shell presents the possibility that the larvae may act opportunistically as predators. However, the twodipteran species appear to be primarily scavengers of necrotic material within the nests, which means that the threatto sea turtle populations from these flies is probably minimal.