Marine Biology

, Volume 160, Issue 1, pp 37–46 | Cite as

Age and growth rates of Hawaiian hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) using skeletochronology

  • Melissa L. SnoverEmail author
  • George H. Balazs
  • Shawn K. K. Murakawa
  • Stacy K. Hargrove
  • Marc R. Rice
  • William A. Seitz
Original Paper


The Hawaiian hawksbill population has fewer than 20 females nesting per year; hence, there is a need to monitor this population closely and basic biological information on individual growth and age to maturity is critical. We present a skeletochronology analysis of Hawaiian hawksbills using humeri recovered from 30 dead stranded hawksbills, plus 10 dead hatchlings. Growth mark morphology shows readily distinguishable marks similar in appearance to other species, though some animals displayed more diffuse marks. Growth rates remained high (average 2.24–4.77 cm year−1) from 20 to 80 cm straight carapace length (SCL). Hawksbills larger than 80 cm SCL had average growth rates of 0.3 cm year−1. There were few adult turtles in the sample; however, results indicate hawksbills have faster growth rates than loggerhead or green turtles, with probable average age to maturity (at size 78.6 cm SCL) occurring between 17 and 22 years.


Carapace Length Green Turtle Growth Mark Straight Carapace Length Curve Carapace Length 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Shandell Brunson for her technical assistance with this project, the research partners of the Hawaiian Islands Marine Turtle Stranding Research Network for assistance with obtaining samples, and F. Parrish, K. Van Houtan and two anonymous reviewers for comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. This work complies with all animal experimentation and ethics standards of the USA. All work was performed under and complied with the provisions of Sea Turtle Research Permit TE739350 issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Reference to trade names does not imply endorsement by the authors or their institutions.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag (outside the USA) 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melissa L. Snover
    • 1
    • 5
    Email author
  • George H. Balazs
    • 1
  • Shawn K. K. Murakawa
    • 1
  • Stacy K. Hargrove
    • 1
  • Marc R. Rice
    • 2
  • William A. Seitz
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.NOAA FisheriesPacific Islands Fisheries Science CenterHonoluluUSA
  2. 2.Hawaii Preparatory AcademyKamuelaUSA
  3. 3.Hawaii Island Hawksbill Turtle Recovery Project, Pacific Cooperative Studies UnitUniversity of Hawaii-MānoaHawaii National ParkUSA
  4. 4.Hawaii Volcanoes National ParkHawaii National ParkUSA
  5. 5.Denali National Park and PreserveDenali ParkUSA

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