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Stable C and N isotope values in Kemp's ridley sea turtle scutes in the northern Gulf of Mexico, 2010 to 2012


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National Park Service, 2016, Data tables in support of manuscript "δ13C and δ15N in the endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle lepidochelys kempii after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill": U.S. Geological Survey data release,


Following an explosion at the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig on April 20, 2010, MC252 an estimated 3.19 million barrels of oil leaked into the Northern Gulf of Mexico over 87 days. The endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii [Lk]) has a long established record of using the area near the well as primary foraging grounds. Resulting short- and long-term negative impacts of the oil spill on sea turtles could induce changes in the health and fitness of the Lk population. MC252 oil is known to have entered the foraging areas. Consequently, stable carbon and nitrogen isotope signatures from MC252 oil should be reflected in the food web and in the tissues of organisms such as sea turtles. We measured carbon and nitrogen isosope [...]


Point of Contact :
Kimberly J Reich
Originator :
Kimberly J Reich
Metadata Contact :
CERC Data Managers
Publisher :
U.S. Geological Survey
Distributor :
U.S. Geological Survey - ScienceBase

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Stable_C_and_N_isotope_values_in_Kemp's_Ridley_sea_turtle_scutes_in_the_northern_Gulf_of_Mexico_2010 to 2012.csv 3.35 KB text/csv


Stable isotopes of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) incorporated in the scutes of sea turtles (inert tissue with continuous growth) provide a history of foraging and habitat use when serial samples of the scute are analyzed (Reich et al. 2007). The oldest dietary record is retained in the outermost layer of scute and each successive layer (0.05 mm) reveals more recent diet and habitat use (Reich et al. 2007, 2008; Vander Zanden et al. 2010). Therefore, if the turtles were exposed to oil after the spill, it may be detected in the recent layers of scute using stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen. Here, we address three questions: 1) were nesting females of 2010 exposed to the oil in their foraging grounds? 2) Is the signature of the oil still present in the foraging area in subsequent years after the spill? 3) What is the proportion of females that were affected by the oil spill? To answer these questions, we analyzed scute samples of female turtles from three consecutive years, 2010, 2011 and 2012.



  • Columbia Environmental Research Center (CERC)



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