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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 652:145-155 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13469

Growth rates for immature Kemp’s ridley sea turtles from a foraging area in the northern Gulf of Mexico

Margaret M. Lamont1,*, Darren Johnson2

1U.S. Geological Survey, Wetland and Aquatic Research Center, Gainesville, FL 32653, USA
2Cherokee Nations Technology, contracted to U.S. Geological Survey, Wetland and Aquatic Research Center, Lafayette, LA 70506, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Examining vital rates helps clarify how environmental characteristics, biological resources and human activities affect population growth. Carapace lengths were gathered for 241 Kemp’s ridley Lepidochelys kempii sea turtles that were marked and recaptured (n = 23) between 2011 and 2019 at a foraging location in northwest Florida, USA. There was a strong correlation between length, width and weight of captured turtles. Mean ± SD size of all captured turtles was 36.6 ± 7.6 cm. Mean recapture interval was 499 ± 475.4 d. Straight-line carapace lengths at initial capture ranged from 20.6 to 53.3 cm. Growth rates from 0.21 to 12.44 cm yr-1 (mean 3.15 ± 2.64 cm) were documented and were greatest for turtles in the 20.0-29.9 cm size class. Growth rates from northwest Florida were slower than those reported from other sites in the Gulf of Mexico. These results indicate that Kemp’s ridleys recruit from oceanic habitat into coastal bays in northwest Florida, where they remain until they reach adulthood. However, some adult-sized turtles may continue to use the nearshore habitat. A gradient in growth rates in the Gulf of Mexico may occur from faster growth in the south to slower growth in the north. Fine-scale variations in resources and environmental conditions may drive regional differences in growth rates, and research on what drives these differences is needed.


KEY WORDS: Lepidochelys kempii · Mark-recapture · Demographic · Endangered species · von Bertalanffy · Age estimates · Northwest Florida


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Cite this article as: Lamont MM, Johnson D (2020) Growth rates for immature Kemp’s ridley sea turtles from a foraging area in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 652:145-155. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13469

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