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Compensatory growth in oceanic loggerhead sea turtles: Response to a stochastic environment
Bjorndal, K.A.; Bolten, A.B.; Dellinger, T.; Delgado, C.; Martins, H.R. (2003). Compensatory growth in oceanic loggerhead sea turtles: Response to a stochastic environment. Ecology 84(5): 1237-1249
In: Ecology. Ecological Society of America: Brooklyn, NY. ISSN 0012-9658, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in Authors 

Keywords
    Compensatory growth; Demography; Caretta caretta (Linnaeus, 1758) [WoRMS]; Marine
Author keywords
    Age-year-cohort effects; Marine turtle; Skeletochronology; Somatic growth; Time-varying parameters

Authors  Top 
  • Bjorndal, K.A.
  • Bolten, A.B.
  • Dellinger, T.
  • Delgado, C., more
  • Martins, H.R.

Abstract
    Compensatory growth (CG, accelerated growth that may occur when an organism that has grown at a reduced rate as a result of suboptimal environmental conditions is exposed to better conditions) is considered an adaptation to variable environments. Although documented thoroughly under captive conditions, CG has rarely been studied in wild populations. In their first years of life, oceanic-stage loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta Caretta) have relatively little control over their geographic position or movements and thus have an extremely stochastic lifestyle with great variation in food availability and temperature. This environmental variation results in variable growth rates. We evaluate somatic growth functions of oceanic-stage loggerheads from the eastern Atlantic based on skeletochronology that allowed us to assign age and cohort to each individual. We demonstrate CG in these turtles based on three different analytical approaches: changes in coefficients of variation in size-at-age, generalized additive model regression analyses of somatic growth, and linear regression of age-specific growth rates. As a result of CG, variation in size-at-age in these juvenile loggerheads is substantially reduced. Thus, size is a better predictor of age than expected based on variation in growth rates. CG decreases with age, apparently as loggerheads gain greater control over their movements. In addition, we have evaluated for the first time in wild sea turtles the time-dependent nature of somatic growth by distinguishing among age, year, and cohort effects using a mixed longitudinal sampling design with assigned-age individuals. Age and year had significant effects on growth rates, but there was no significant cohort effect. Our results address critical gaps in knowledge of the demography of this endangered species.

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