Don’t Tread on Me

Raccoons (Procyon lotor) love loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) eggs, as do ghost crabs (Ocypode quadrata). Unfortunately, the often-used conservation measure of controlling raccoons at turtle nesting beaches lets the ghost crabs off the hook. But raccoons are also partial to the odd crustacean for dinner. A study published recently in Biological Conservation suggests that leaving at least some raccoons might actually benefit the beleaguered turtles, because they suppress predation levels by crabs. Yale researcher Brandon Barton’s field study found the highest ghost crab numbers—and highest overall turtle nest predation—occurred where there were the fewest raccoons. ❧

—Nick Atkinson

Barton, B.T. and J.D. Roth. 2008. Implications of intraguild predation for sea turtle nest protection. Biological Conservation 141:2139–2145.