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ESR 48:175-189 (2022)  -  DOI:

Effect of body size on the long-term reproductive output of eastern Atlantic loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta

Samir Martins1,2,*, Luis Cardona3, Elena Abella1, Elton Silva1, Nuno de Santos Loureiro2, Michael Roast3, Adolfo Marco1,4

1BIOS.CV - Environmental Conservation and Sustainable Development Association, 5110 Sal Rei, Boa Vista Island, Cabo Verde
2Faculty of Sciences and Technology, Campus de Gambelas, Universidade do Algarve, 8000-117 Faro, Portugal
3IRBio and Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Science, Faculty of Biology, Universitat de Barcelona, Av. Diagonal 643, 08028 Barcelona, Spain
4Estación Biológica de Doñana, CSIC, C/ Américo Vespucio s/n, 41092 Sevilla, Spain
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: We assessed the relationship between body size and several important life history parameters to understand the demographic significance of interpopulation variability in the body size of loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta nesting on Boa Vista Island (Cabo Verde). The adult growth rate (0.34 ± 0.60 cm yr-1), annual mortality rate (0.13, 95% CI: 0.12-0.15) and remigration interval (3.1 ± 1.2 yr) were independent of curved carapace length (minimum curved carapace length [CCLmin]). Conversely, the body condition index decreased significantly with female CCLmin. The clutch size, mean egg mass, mean hatchling straight carapace length and mean hatchling mass increased significantly with female CCLmin. However, there was no relationship between female size and hatching success. Randomization and bootstrapping were used to incorporate variability when calculating the average individual fecundity over 20 yr, a period that accumulated, on average, 94% of the adult mortality. The overall fecundity during this period increased with carapace length at first maturity (71 cm CCLmin: 815 eggs, 95% CI: 653-863; 80 cm CCLmin: 906 eggs, 95% CI: 822-959; 90 cm CCLmin: 1089 eggs, 95% CI: 926-1415). However, only 8% of the adult females nesting on Boa Vista Island are larger than 90 cm CCLmin, and they produce less than 12% of the total annual egg production. The scarcity of large females might result from a shortage of high-quality foraging grounds where females may reach first sexual maturity at a large carapace length and from the combined effect of a small carapace length at first sexual maturity, low adult somatic growth and high adult mortality.

KEY WORDS: Cabo Verde · Fecundity · Foraging strategies · Intrapopulation variation · Loggerhead sea turtle · West Africa

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Cite this article as: Martins S, Cardona L, Abella E, Silva E, Loureiro NS, Roast M, Marco A (2022) Effect of body size on the long-term reproductive output of eastern Atlantic loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta. Endang Species Res 48:175-189.

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