Scientia Marina, Vol 73, No 3 (2009)

Growth rates and age at adult size of loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) in the Mediterranean Sea, estimated through capture-mark-recapture records

Paolo Casale
Department of Animal and Human Biology, University of Rome 1 ‘La Sapienza’,, Italy

Antonios D. Mazaris
Department of Ecology, School of Biology, Greece

Daniela Freggi
Sea Turtle Rescue Centre WWF Italy, Italy

Carola Vallini
A.R.C.H.E, Italy

Roberto Argano
Department of Animal and Human Biology, University of Rome 1 ‘La Sapienza’, Italy


Growth rates of the juvenile phase of loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) were estimated for the first time in the Mediterranean Sea from capture-mark-recapture records. Thirty-eight turtles were released from Italian coasts and re-encountered after 1.0-10.9 years in the period 1986-2007. Their mean CCL (curved carapace length) ranged from 32.5 to 82.0 cm and they showed variable growth rates, ranging from 0 to 5.97 cm/yr (mean: 2.5). The association between annual growth rate and three covariates (mean year, mean size and time interval) was investigated through a non-parametric modelling approach. Only mean size showed a clear effect on growth rate, described by a monotonic declining curve. Variability indicates that factors not included in the model, probably individual-related ones, have an important effect on growth rates. Based on the monotonic decreasing growth function which indicates no growth spurt, a von Bertalanffy growth function was used to estimate the time required by turtles to grow within the observed size range. The results indicate that turtles would take 16-28 years to reach 66.5-84.7 cm CCL, the average nesting female sizes observed at the most important Mediterranean nesting sites, which can be considered an approximation of the size at maturity.


loggerhead sea turtle; growth rate; capture‑mark‑recapture; Mediterranean

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