The shells of sea turtles was home to thousands of microscopic animals

On the shell of the sea turtle the loggerhead average lives 34000 microscopic symbiont, which include nematode worms, various crustaceans and other invertebrates. Such estimates were received by the researchers after studying the samples taken from 23 turtles. In an article for the journal Diversity , they saythat a turtle shell not only serves as home to numerous living beings and helps them to settle on the oceans.

Shell of the sea turtle — a great place to live symbiotic organisms that find food, protection or just a substrate for attachment. Largest fish-stick (Echeneidae) and Cirripedia (Cirripedia) — easy to see with the naked eye. However, the microscopic inhabitants of a turtle shell, more numerous and diverse — and much worse understood.

The researchers, led by Jeroen Ingels and his (Jeroen Ingels) from Florida state University decided to evaluate the number of symbionts inhabiting the shell of the sea turtle the loggerhead (Caretta Caretta). They focused on the most poorly known group, meiofauna, that is organisms with size from thirty-two micrometers to one millimeter.

Team members studied carapace 23 loggerhead that came to lay eggs on the island of St George off the West coast of Florida. Researchers with a spatula, cleaned of their barnacles from the shells of crustaceans, and then sampled using a sponge. To assess how the symbionts are distributed over the surface of a carapace of, samples as possible were taken separately from anterior, middle and posterior part. One of the turtles treated twice, with an interval of several days.

On average carapace each loggerhead was found at 34000 microscopic symbiont. Least they had secondary-treated turtles 353, and the maximum number was 146190 individuals. While differences in density and diversity of meiofauna between the different parts of armour were found.

Among the inhabitants of turtle shells were representatives of twenty taxa above the family, including various crustaceans, worms and their larvae. Interestingly, their species composition differed considerably from specimen to specimen. Rather, it depended on where fed different turtles.

Special attention was paid to researchers nematodes roundworms (Nematoda), which on each loggerhead there was an average of 2656. The team was able to identify among them the representatives of the 111 genera. Unlike the rest of the meiofauna, nematode location in a particular part of the carapace was an important factor. The species diversity of these worms growing as you move towards the rear, and representatives of different genera prefer different sites. However, the average number of nematodes was approximately the same across carapax. According to the authors, the rear part of the body of a sea turtle is least likely on the surface and is less exposed to the influence of the water flow that provides stable conditions for high species diversity of roundworms.

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