ESR 37:301-308 (2018)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00930

Biphasic allometric growth in juvenile green turtles Chelonia mydas

Michael Salmon1,*, Cody R. Mott2, Michael J. Bresette2

1Department of Biological Sciences, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida, 33431, USA
2Inwater Research Group, Jensen Beach, Florida 34957, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Green turtles raised in the laboratory widen faster than they lengthen, thus changing in shape from the proportions they show as hatchlings. By doing so, young turtles may sooner achieve a size refuge from their gape-limited predators. In this study, we document that wild juveniles captured at open-water weed lines in the Gulf of Mexico show similarly wider proportions, demonstrating for the first time that this growth pattern occurs in nature. We additionally quantified the shell dimensions of older juveniles that had abandoned weed lines and returned to occupy shallow coastal reefs. Those turtles exhibited a narrower ’hatchling like’ body shape. We conclude that juvenile green turtles show a biphasic pattern of initial widening, followed later by a secondary narrowing once they achieve a size that exceeds 25-30 cm in straight-line carapace length. We hypothesize that secondary narrowing may be advantageous for reducing lethal interactions with a different subset of larger predators, those that typically dismember their prey rather than swallow them whole. Finally, we categorize this complex growth pattern as one of several vulnerability traits that promote juvenile turtle survival, and document that they are expressed in different combinations among other marine turtle species.


KEY WORDS: Allometric growth · Evolution · Predator-prey · Sea turtle · Vulnerability traits


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Cite this article as: Salmon M, Mott CR, Bresette MJ (2018) Biphasic allometric growth in juvenile green turtles Chelonia mydas. Endang Species Res 37:301-308. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00930

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