Spongivory in Hawksbill Turtles: A Diet of Glass

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Science  22 Jan 1988:
Vol. 239, Issue 4838, pp. 393-395
DOI: 10.1126/science.239.4838.393


The hawksbill(Eretmochelys imbricata), an endangered marine turtle associated with coral reefs throughout the tropics, feeds almost exclusively on sponges in the Caribbean, and possibly throughout its range. It is one of fewer than a dozen vertebrates that are known to specialize on this widely distributed but well-defended food resource. The diet is taxonomically narrow and highly uniform geographically, includes sponges that are toxic to other vertebrates, and contains more silica than that of other vertebrates. By affecting space competition, spongivory by hawksbills may influence succession and diversity of reef communities.

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