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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 596:199-211 (2018)  -  DOI:

Determinate or indeterminate growth? Revisiting the growth strategy of sea turtles

Lucy C. M. Omeyer1, Wayne J. Fuller2,3, Brendan J. Godley1, Robin T. E. Snape1,3, Annette C. Broderick1,*

1Marine Turtle Research Group, Centre for Ecology and Conservation, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Penryn, Cornwall TR10 9FE, UK
2Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Near East University, Nicosia, Mersin 10, North Cyprus
3Society for the Protection of Turtles, PK 65 Kyrenia, North Cyprus
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Traditionally, growth can be either determinate, ceasing during the natural lifespan of individuals, or indeterminate, persisting throughout life. Although indeterminate growth is a widely accepted strategy and believed to be ubiquitous among long-lived species, it may not be as common as previously thought. Sea turtles are believed to be indeterminate growers despite the paucity of long-term studies into post-maturity growth. In this study, we provide the first temporal analysis of post-maturity growth rates in wild living sea turtles, using 26 yr of data on individual measurements of females nesting in Cyprus. We used generalised additive/linear mixed models to incorporate multiple growth measurements for each female and model post-maturity growth over time. We found post-maturity growth to persist in green Chelonia mydas and loggerhead Caretta caretta turtles, with growth decreasing for approximately 14 yr before plateauing around zero for a further decade solely in green turtles. We also found growth to be independent of size at sexual maturity in both species. Additionally, although annual growth and compound annual growth rates were higher in green turtles than in loggerhead turtles, this difference was not statistically significant. While indeterminate growth is believed to be a key life-history trait of ectothermic vertebrates, here, we provide evidence of determinate growth in green and loggerhead turtles and suggest that determinate growth is a life-history trait shared by cheloniid species. Our results highlight the need for long-term studies to refine life-history models and further our understanding of ageing and longevity of wild sea turtles for conservation and management.

KEY WORDS: Green turtle · Loggerhead turtle · Sexual maturity · Size at sexual maturity · Somatic growth rates

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Cite this article as: Omeyer LCM, Fuller WJ, Godley BJ, Snape RTE, Broderick AC (2018) Determinate or indeterminate growth? Revisiting the growth strategy of sea turtles. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 596:199-211.

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