Environmental effects on growth, reproduction, and life-history traits of loggerhead turtles

Nina Marn*, Marko Jusup, Tarzan Legović, S. A.L.M. Kooijman, Tin Klanjšček

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Understanding the relationship between the environmental conditions and life-history traits (such as growth, reproduction, and size at specific life stages) is important for understanding the population dynamics of a species and for constructing adaptable, relevant, and efficient conservation measures. For the endangered loggerhead turtle, characterizing effects of environmental conditions on the life-history traits is complicated by this species’ longevity, global distribution, and migratory way of life. Two significant environmental factors – temperature and available food – often account for most of observed intra-population variability in growth and reproduction rates, suggesting that those two factors determine the biological responses of an individual. Adopting this hypothesis, we simulate a range of the two environmental factors to quantify effects of changes in temperature and food availability on an individual's physiology (energy investment into processes such as growth, maturation, and reproduction) and the resulting life-history traits. To represent an individual, we use a previously developed mechanistic dynamic energy budget (DEB) model for loggerhead turtles. DEB models rely on one of the empirically best validated general ecological theories, which captures rules of energy acquisition and utilization. We found that the ultimate size (length and mass) is primarily affected by food availability, whereas growth and maturation are primarily affected by temperature whilst also showing positive correlation with available food. Reproduction increases with both food availability and temperature because food availability determines energy investment into egg production, and temperature affects the rate of related processes (such as vitellogenesis). Length at puberty varies between simulated scenarios by only a small proportion, suggesting that inter-individual variability plays a larger role for length at puberty than the environmental factors do.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-178
Number of pages16
JournalEcological Modelling
Volume360
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sep 2017

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Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Conservation
  • Environmental effects
  • Life history
  • Loggerhead turtle
  • Marine ecology
  • Mechanistic model

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