Life in the really slow lane: loggerhead sea turtles mature late relative to other reptiles
Article first published online: 12 OCT 2011
© 2011 The Authors. Functional Ecology © 2011 British Ecological Society
Volume 26, Issue 1, pages 227–235, February 2012
How to Cite
Scott, R., Marsh, R. and Hays, G. C. (2012), Life in the really slow lane: loggerhead sea turtles mature late relative to other reptiles. Functional Ecology, 26: 227–235. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2435.2011.01915.x
- Issue published online: 18 JAN 2012
- Article first published online: 12 OCT 2011
- Received 9 December 2010; accepted 22 August 2011 Handling Editor: David Reznick
- growth curve;
- Gulf Stream;
- Kuroshio current;
- larval dispersal;
- life history;
- population dynamics
1. Age at maturity is hard to estimate for species that cannot be directly marked or observed throughout their lives and yet is a key demographic parameter that is needed to assess the conservation status of endangered species.
2. For loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) in the North Atlantic and North Pacific, juvenile growth rates (c. 10 cm year−1) were calculated by examining size increases during transoceanic journeys; durations of which were estimated from satellite-tracked Lagrangian surface drifter buoy trajectories.
3. Lagrangian-derived growth estimates were used in a weighted loglinear model of size-specific growth rates for loggerhead turtles and combined with newly available information on size at maturity to estimate an age at maturity of 45 years (older than past estimates).
4. By examining the age at maturity for 79 reptile species, we show that loggerhead turtles, along with other large-bodied Testudine (turtle and tortoise) species, take longer to reach maturity than other reptile species of comparable sizes. This finding heightens concern over the future sustainability of turtle populations. By maturing at an old age, sea turtles will be less resilient to anthropogenic mortality than previously suspected.