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Evaluation of Gonadal Tissue to Validate Size at Reproductive Maturity in Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles Found Stranded in Texas, USA

1
Department of Biology, Georgia Southern University – Armstrong Campus, 11935 Abercorn St., Savannah, GA 31419, USA
2
Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery, Padre Island National Seashore, National Park Service, P.O. Box 181300, Corpus Christi, TX 78480, USA
3
Department of Biology, College of Charleston, 66 George St., Charleston, SC 29424, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Diversity 2019, 11(5), 76; https://doi.org/10.3390/d11050076
Received: 7 April 2019 / Revised: 2 May 2019 / Accepted: 6 May 2019 / Published: 9 May 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in the Biology and Conservation of Turtles)
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Abstract

The Kemp’s ridley, Lepidochelys kempii, is the most endangered sea turtle in the world. Anthropogenic mortality of Kemp’s ridleys has been well documented in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM), USA. We evaluated the reproductive maturity of 75 Kemp’s ridley sea turtles found dead on GOM beaches on Mustang Island and North Padre Island, Texas, USA, 1994–1999. Straight carapace length (SCL) ranged from 40.8 to 68.7 cm. Preserved gonads and associated tissues were examined and measured. Gonadal measurements were then compared with SCL. Adults and juveniles shared a larger range of carapace measurements than expected, supporting the idea that juveniles spend several years in a pubertal state. Our results suggest caution when using SCL, tail length, or curved front claws alone as indicators of sexual maturity. In fact, SCL can be used to discern adults from juveniles with more predictive power when coupled with testis length or oviduct length measurements, thus allowing endangered species managers to more clearly identify demographic shifts in the number of mature animals, which can precede population changes. This study shows that information gained from the examination of stranded sea turtles allows wildlife managers to make more informed decisions regarding conservation priorities. View Full-Text
Keywords: Kemp’s ridley; sea turtle size at maturation; assessing maturation; sea turtle puberty Kemp’s ridley; sea turtle size at maturation; assessing maturation; sea turtle puberty
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Craven, K.S.; Hodgson, J.Y.S.; Shaver, D.J.; Walker, J.S.; Villalba-Guerra, M.R.; Owens, D.W. Evaluation of Gonadal Tissue to Validate Size at Reproductive Maturity in Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles Found Stranded in Texas, USA. Diversity 2019, 11, 76.

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