Determinate or indeterminate growth? Revisiting the growth strategy of sea turtles
Marine Ecology Progress Series
© Inter-Research 2018
Reason for embargo
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.
Fieldwork was supported by the British Associate of Tortoise Keepers, British Chelonia Group, British High Commission in Cyprus, British Residents Society, Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, Darwin Initiative, Erwin Warth Foundation, Friends of SPOT, Glasgow Uni versity Court, Kuzey Kıbrıs Turkcell, MEDASSET UK, and Natural Environment Research Council.
This is the author's accepted manuscript.
The final version is available from Inter Research via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 596, pp. 199 - 211