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Jensen Beach, FL, United States

Bjorndal K.A.,University of Florida | Schroeder B.A.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Foley A.M.,Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission | Witherington B.E.,University of Florida | And 18 more authors.
Marine Biology

In response to a call from the US National Research Council for research programs to combine their data to improve sea turtle population assessments, we analyzed somatic growth data for Northwest Atlantic (NWA) loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) from 10 research programs. We assessed growth dynamics over wide ranges of geography (9-33°N latitude), time (1978-2012), and body size (35.4-103.3 cm carapace length). Generalized additive models revealed significant spatial and temporal variation in growth rates and a significant decline in growth rates with increasing body size. Growth was more rapid in waters south of the USA (<24°N) than in USA waters. Growth dynamics in southern waters in the NWA need more study because sample size was small. Within USA waters, the significant spatial effect in growth rates of immature loggerheads did not exhibit a consistent latitudinal trend. Growth rates declined significantly from 1997 through 2007 and then leveled off or increased. During this same interval, annual nest counts in Florida declined by 43 % (Witherington et al. in Ecol Appl 19:30-54, 2009) before rebounding. Whether these simultaneous declines reflect responses in productivity to a common environmental change should be explored to determine whether somatic growth rates can help interpret population trends based on annual counts of nests or nesting females. Because of the significant spatial and temporal variation in growth rates, population models of NWA loggerheads should avoid employing growth data from restricted spatial or temporal coverage to calculate demographic metrics such as age at sexual maturity. © 2013 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. Source

Mcgowin A.E.,Wright State University | Truong T.M.,Wright State University | Corbett A.M.,Wright State University | Bagley D.A.,University of Central Florida | And 6 more authors.
Molecular Ecology Resources

Ozobranchus margoi and Ozobranchus branchiatus are the only two species of marine turtle leeches (Ozobranchus spp.) known to inhabit the Atlantic coast of the United States and the Gulf of Mexico. In early reports of fibropapillomatosis (FP) in green turtles (Chelonia mydas), O. branchiatus was implicated as a vector in the transmission of Fibropapilloma-associated turtle herpesvirus (FPTHV). It is imperative that the leech species be identified to elucidate the role Ozobranchus spp. may play in disease transmission. In this study, Ozobranchus branchiatus has been identified for the first time on a loggerhead (Caretta caretta) turtle, and the molecular data for this species is now available for the first time in GenBank. Both species of leeches were also found infecting a single C. mydas. Using morphological taxonomy combined with distance- and character-based genetic sequence analyses, this study has established a DNA barcode for both species of Ozobranchus spp. leech and has shown it can be applied successfully to the identification of leeches at earlier stages of development when morphological taxonomy cannot be employed. The results suggest a different haplotype may exist for O. branchiatus leeches found on C. caretta versus C. mydas. Leech cocoon residue collected from a C. mydas was identified using the new method. © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Source

Gorham J.C.,Inwater Research Group Inc | Clark D.R.,Inwater Research Group Inc | Bresette M.J.,Inwater Research Group Inc | Bagley D.A.,Inwater Research Group Inc | And 5 more authors.

In order to provide information to better inform management decisions and direct further research, vessel-based visual transects, snorkel transects, and in-water capture techniques were used to characterize hawksbill sea turtles in the shallow marine habitats of a Marine Protected Area (MPA), the Key West National Wildlife Refuge in the Florida Keys. Hawksbills were found in hardbottom and seagrass dominated habitats throughout the Refuge, and on man-made rubble structures in the Northwest Channel near Cottrell Key. Hawksbills captured (N=82) were exclusively juveniles and subadults with a straight standard carapace length (SSCL) ranging from 21.4 to 69.0cm with a mean of 44.1 cm (SD=10.8). Somatic growth rates were calculated from 15 recaptured turtles with periods at large ranging from 51 to 1188 days. Mean SSCL growth rate was 7.7 cm/year (SD=4.6). Juvenile hawksbills (<50 cm SSCL) showed a significantly higher growth rate (9.2 cm/year, SD=4.5, N=11) than subadult hawksbills (50-70 cm SSCL, 3.6 cm/year, SD=0.9, N=4). Analysis of 740 base pair mitochondrial control region sequences from 50 sampled turtles yielded 12 haplotypes. Haplotype frequencies were significantly different compared to four other Caribbean juvenile foraging aggregations, including one off the Atlantic coast of Florida. Many-to-one mixed stock analysis indicated Mexico as the primary source of juveniles in the region and also suggested that the Refuge may serve as important developmental habitat for the Cuban nesting aggregation. Serum testosterone radioimmunoassay results from 33 individuals indicated a female biased sex ratio of 3.3 females: 1 male for hawksbills in the Refuge. This assemblage of hawksbills is near the northern limit of the species range, and is one of only two such assemblages described in the waters of the continental United States. Since this assemblage resides in an MPA with intensive human use, basic information on the assemblage is vital to resource managers charged with conservation and species protection in the MPA. © 2014, Public Library of Science. All rights reserved. Source

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