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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 432:269-276 (2011)  -  DOI:

Somatic growth rates for a hawksbill turtle population in coral reef habitat around Barbados

Barry H. Krueger1, Milani Y. Chaloupka2, Patrick A. Leighton3, Jennifer A. Dunn1,4, Julia A. Horrocks1,*

1Department of Biological & Chemical Sciences, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, St Michael BB11000, Barbados
2Ecological Modelling Services Pty Ltd, University of Queensland, PO Box 6150, St Lucia, Queensland 4067, Australia
3Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Montréal, 3200 Sicotte, CP 5000, Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec J2S 7C6, Canada
4Present address: Duke University Marine Laboratory, 135 Marine Lab Road, Beaufort, North Carolina 28516, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: A generalized additive mixed modelling approach was used to investigate the somatic growth of hawksbill turtles Eretmochelys imbricata (23.7 to 80 cm curved carapace length [CCL]) on nearshore coral reef sites around Barbados at depths of 12 to 35 m. The effects of body size, sex, ­sampling year, recapture interval and an indicator of foraging habitat quality on growth rates were ­investigated. The model accounted for about 60% of the variance in growth rates, but only mean size and sampling year were significant predictors. The growth rate function was nonmonotonic, with peak growth (3.4 cm yr–1) occurring in turtles with a CCL between 30 and 35 cm. The lower growth rates recorded for smaller turtles may reflect a period when sea turtles newly recruiting from pelagic to neritic habitats are adapting to a change in diet. The decline in growth rates with sampling year over the 10 yr study may reflect density-dependent effects on growth. Declining growth rates may prompt large juveniles to leave the Barbados foraging ground to settle elsewhere to grow to maturity.

KEY WORDS: Eretmochelys imbricata · Growth rate modelling · Barbados · Developmental habitat · Foraging ground · Density-dependent effect · Generalized additive mixed model

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Cite this article as: Krueger BH, Chaloupka MY, Leighton PA, Dunn JA, Horrocks JA (2011) Somatic growth rates for a hawksbill turtle population in coral reef habitat around Barbados. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 432:269-276.

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