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Temporal Variation in a Turtle Assemblage Inhabiting a Florida Spring-fed River

Gerald R. Johnston1,*, Joseph C. Mitchell2, Eric C. Munscher3,4, Georgia A. Shemitz5, Peter L. Butt5, Samuel Cole6, and Tabitha Hootman7

1Department of Natural Sciences, Santa Fe College, Gainesville, FL 32606. 2Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611 (deceased). 3SWCA Environmental Consultants, 10245 West Little York Road, Suite 600, Houston, TX 77040. 4Turtle Survival Alliance - North American Freshwater Turtle Research Group, Fort Worth, TX 76110. 5Karst Environmental Services, High Springs, FL 32643. 6Ichetucknee Springs State Park, 12087 SW US Highway 27, Fort White, FL 32038. 7Jacksonville University, 2800 University Boulevard North, Jacksonville, FL 32211. *Corresponding author.

Southeastern Naturalist, Volume 19, Issue 2 (2020): 271–282

We conducted a survey of freshwater turtle populations in the spring-fed Ichetucknee River in northern Florida to assess temporal variation in assemblage structure. Following the same protocols as an initial 2007 survey, we hand-captured turtles while snorkeling in 2014 and found changes in species composition, abundance of 3 species, and demographic composition of 2 species. We observed a shift in the most frequently captured species from Sternotherus minor (Loggerhead Musk Turtle) in 2007 to Pseudemys concinna (River Cooter) in 2014. We attribute this shift to an increase in the abundance of adult River Cooters. Long-term studies are needed to evaluate whether the changes we observed represent trends and which environmental factors may be driving them.

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