In this dissertation, I investigated the reproductive ecology and hatchling behavior of the olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) sea turtle population nesting in Pacific Honduras. I begin by reviewing olive ridley reproduction, human use of this species, and past and present conservation on nesting beaches. I also propose a conservation strategy to improve nesting beach conservation programs in developing countries. In the first of four empirical studies, I used microsatellite markers to assess multiple paternity levels of the Honduran population, and found evidence for multiple paternity in 75% of the nests examined. This rate, higher than expected for a population of solitary nesters, suggests that some females may be coming from Nicaraguan mass nesting beaches. The second study compared thermal profiles, hatching success, and hatchling characteristics of nests left in situ on the beach with nests from a local hatchery. I also assessed the effects of retaining hatchlings for 24 hours after emergence. Incubation temperatures were higher, and hatching success was lower, in the hatchery compared to the beach. Mean nest temperature during the second third of incubation was a good predictor of hatching success. Retention for 24 hours reduced hatchling weight, running speed, and active swimming time. In the third study, I compare diurnal and nocturnal hatchling swimming patterns, finding that hatchlings at night swam near the surface 98% of the time, yet during the day they spent 78% of the time swimming at depth. This diurnal pattern of deep swimming may be used by hatchlings to avoid avian predation. In the fourth study, I investigated the effects of tidal currents on hatchling movements during offshore migration. Hatchlings moved away from the coast during outgoing tides, but were pulled back to the shore during incoming tides. I found that a change in the timing of hatchling releases helped counter backward movements and increased effective distances covered by the hatchlings. This dissertation represents the first comprehensive study on the reproductive ecology of the Honduran olive ridley population. My findings provide useful information for improving ongoing conservation efforts for this species.

LLU Discipline



Earth and Biological Sciences


School of Medicine

First Advisor

Dunbar, Stephen G.

Second Advisor

Gibson, L. James

Third Advisor

Hayes, William K.

Fourth Advisor

Nick, Kevin E.

Fifth Advisor

Soret, Samuel

Sixth Advisor

Standish, Timothy G.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Olive Ridley Turtle - Honduras; Sea turtles - Honduras; Sea turtles - Ecology - Honduras; Sea turtles - Conservation - Honduras

Subject - Local

Reproductive Ecology; Hatchling Behavior; Lepidochelys olivacea; Nocturnal hatchling swimming patterns; Diurnal patterns;



Page Count


Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives