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Long-term trends in marine turtle size at maturity at an important Atlantic rookery

Citation

Mansfield, Katherine; Phillips, Katrina; Stahelin, Gustavo; Chabot, Ryan (2021), Long-term trends in marine turtle size at maturity at an important Atlantic rookery, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.n8pk0p2v6

Abstract

For species reaching maturity at a range of ages or sizes, factors that influence juvenile growth and size at maturity may have lasting impacts on overall fitness. Assessing when animals reach maturity is especially challenging for species which are difficult to follow through time as a result of highly migratory behavior, long life spans, or both. We examined nesting female size in a reproductive assemblage of green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and loggerheads (Caretta caretta) on the east coast of Florida, USA. We used a long-term dataset from 1982-2019 to estimate a minimum size at maturity interval on the basis of two standard deviations below mean female size for each species. The minimum size intervals for green turtles (81.4 - 89.3 cm) and loggerheads (68.1 - 79.1 cm) were lower than most previous estimates in the literature, many of which were simply the smallest individual ever observed. There was a significant decrease in the upper bound of the minimum size interval over the study period for both green turtles (1.6 cm) and loggerheads (4.1 cm). These shifts in size at maturity may be the result of changes in population demographics, habitat quality, and behavioral reactions to these changes. The development and periodic reassessment of robust estimators of maturity are an important part of programs centered around the monitoring and conservation of vulnerable wildlife populations.

Usage Notes

Each line represents an individual encounter with a nesting female sea turtle with the year, species, and straight carapace length measured in centimeters from notch-tip. Individual turtles are only listed once within a nesting year.