SREL Reprint #2242

 

 

 

Estimation of Age for Trachemys scripts and Deirochelys reticularia by Counting Annual Growth Layers in Claws

 

R. BRENT THOMAS, DANIEL W. BECKMAN, KIP THOMPSON, KURT A. BUHLMANN, J. WHITFIELD GIBBONS, AND DON L. MOLL

 

The need for accurate methods of age determination in life-history studies is well recognized. Techniques used to estimate the age of turtles include analysis of body size (Balazs, 1982; Frazer and Ehrhart, 1985; Frazer and Ladner, 1986), weighing eye tenses U. Frazierj. BalIon, and S. Salas, unpubl.), counting growth zones on plastral scutes (Cagle, 1946; Sexton, 1959; Gibbons, 1983), and skeletochronology (Mattox, 1935; Zug, 1990; Klinger and Musick, 1992). Each technique has its disadvantages, and finding a technique that is accurate and can be applied objectively has been difficult (Zug, 1991). An ideal age estimation technique would not cause stress or mortality to the individual being aged, would be valid for all age/size classes, would be based on a clearly recognizable structure that is permanent throughout the life of the individual, and would not require subjective judgment. The use of claws could potentially satisfy three of these requirements for turtle age estimation. Zug (1991) suggested that because claws grow continuously throughout the life of a turtle and because growth is aftected by environmental factors, the formation of seasonal growth layers might be expected. The objective of our study was to determine whether annual layers could be observed in sections of claws from Trachemys scyipta and Deirochelys reticularia and whether counts based on such layering could provide reliable data for age esnmation.

 

SREL Reprint #2242

Thomas, R.B., D.W. Beckman, K. Thompson, K.A. Buhlmann, J.W. Gibbons, and D.L. Moll. 1997. Estimation of age for Trachemys scripta and Deirochelys reticularia by counting annual growth layers in claws. Copeia 4:842-845.

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