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Growth and metabolism of leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) in their first year of life Hastings, Mervin Derick


Oxygen consumption (V02)a s monitored in six juvenile leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) imported from the Virgin Islands (UK) and kept in a covered outdoor facility at the University of British Columbia. Growth data suggest that leatherbacks can attain a mature size in as little as 5 1/2 to 6 years, much faster than other sea turtles, and reach 90 kg ( > 100 cm) in as little as 3 years when they may be thermally capable of venturing into temperature zones for greater resource availability. Animals were held at 24°C and their Routine Metabolic Rate (RoMR) was measured during the first year at 24°C as well as after acute exposure to 14, 19, 29 and 34°C at four different body masses (0.1, 0.5, 1 and 10 kg). Increasing temperature, as well as body mass, significantly increased V0 2 .Maximum flipper stroke rate occurred at the acclimation temperature (24°C), falling with exposure to lower and higher temperatures. In contrast, breathing frequency (fR) was unaffected by changes in temperature across all size classes. The intraspecific scaling exponent for VO2 over an order of magnitude change in body mass at 24°C was 0.88, very similar to allometric scaling exponents of other reptiles. The scaling exponent increased at 14°C and decreased at 34°C. lntraspecific scaling exponents are temperature dependent in leatherback turtles and this may also be the same in other reptiles.

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