Growth Rates of Adult Sea Turtles


Indeterminate growth, i.e. growth that persists throughout life, is common in long-lived reptiles. Because fecundity and body size tend to be correlated in such species, individuals face a life-history trade-off at sexual maturity. Saturation tagging and intensive monitoring at nesting grounds can potentially provide opportunities to accumulate data on individual measurements and reproductive output. Until recently, however, shortcomings from these methods have prevented the testing of theories on resource allocation between growth and reproduction at sexual maturity in wild populations of sea turtles. Here, we review the state of knowledge of growth rates in adult sea turtles and potential life-history trade-offs. We found that post-maturity growth rates varied among ocean basins. They appeared highest in the Atlantic Ocean for both green turtles Chelonia mydas and hawksbill turtles Eretmochelys imbricata, and highest in the Mediterranean Sea for loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta. For other species, there are too few studies at present to allow for intraspecific comparison. Additionally, we found no significant difference in mean female compound annual growth rates among species and ocean basins. Although captive studies have provided great insight into changes in energy allocation at sexual maturity and life-history trade-offs, this review highlights the lack of data on wild animals regarding changes in post-maturity growth rates and reproductive output over time. Such data are desirable to further our understanding of energy allocation, growth and ageing in wild sea turtles. They are further required to assess the status of species and to understand population dynamics for both conservation and management.

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Author(s)Lucy CM
Omeyer LC
Godley BJ
Broderick AC
Published Date2017
Publication LanguageEnglish
TypeScientific Article
CMS InstrumentIOSEA Marine Turtles