ESR 23:167-175 (2014)  -  DOI:

Age-size relationship at reproduction of South African female loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta

Jenny Tucek1,*, Ronel Nel1, Marc Girondot2, George Hughes3

1Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Department of Zoology, Port Elizabeth 6031, South Africa
2Laboratoire Écologie, Systématique et Évolution (UMR8079), Faculté des Sciences d’Orsay, Université Paris-Sud, 91405 Orsay, France
3183 Amber Valley, Private Bag X 30, Howick 3290, South Africa
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Average age and size at first reproduction are important demographic parameters used in the management and conservation of populations. For sea turtles, absolute values for these parameters are still ambiguous, as most species are slow-growing, late-maturing migrants which are rarely encountered during the first 1 to 2 decades of their lives. Additionally, growth is significantly influenced by a variety of intrinsic and extrinsic factors which make it difficult to describe age-size relationships. Extensive notching (mutilation-tagging) of South African loggerhead turtles was used to determine age and size at reproduction (putative first nesting season), and thus to identify the trigger for sexual maturation. To date, 137 clearly identified notched adult females have been encountered at the nesting beach. A Gaussian and log-normal distribution were fitted to the age distribution data but only the Gaussian distribution can be used to safely estimate age at first observation, as the right part (‘older ages’) of the distribution is still unknown. The estimated age at first observation was corrected for the possibility that a female was not encountered during her first nesting season. Results indicate an average age of 36.2 ± SD 7.71 yr (95% CI 28.2 to 44.3 yr) with a straight carapace length (SCLmin) of 83.7 ± 4.15 cm (95% CI 83.0 to 84.4 cm). It was concluded that size is a more important threshold for the initiation of the maturation process than age and that the onset of sexual maturity is dependent on intrinsic and extrinsic factors.

KEY WORDS: Age and size at reproduction · Loggerhead turtle · Mutilation tagging

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Cite this article as: Tucek J, Nel R, Girondot M, Hughes G (2014) Age-size relationship at reproduction of South African female loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta. Endang Species Res 23:167-175.

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