Evolutionary theories predict major differences in life-history trait values of long- and short-lived organisms. Such comparisons have not been possible for chelonians because no short-lived turtle was known until research revealed that chicken turtles (Deirochelys reticularia; DR) have a maximum longevity of 21 yrs. Life-history trait values of DR females are 1) age at maturity of females = 5–6 yrs; 2) clutches per season = 1.6; 3) annual fecundity = 6–8 female eggs per female; 4) average juvenile survivorship from age 1 to maturity = 0.60; and 5) low average annual adult survivorship = 0.66. We compared DR with the very long-lived Blanding's turtles (Emydoidea blandingii; EB) in Michigan. Over 14 yrs with no mortality (the minimum age at maturity of EB), the maximum potential fecundity produced by a single female embryo and her mature female offspring was 5 female eggs for EB and 1040 eggs for DR. Comparisons of life table output for approximately stable populations of DR and EB resulted in cohort generation times of 7 and 37 yrs, respectively. The life-history prediction that short-lived organisms should produce smaller offspring was not supported. Average wet mass of eggs is 10 g (8.4–11.3 g) for DR and 12 g (10–14 g) for EB; and average wet mass of hatchlings is 7.3 g (6–9 g) for DR and 9.3 g (6–13 g) for EB. Both differences are smaller than expected based on the difference in longevity. Short-lived female DR have an unusual tactic of investing in high fecundity and making substantial body size-specific investment in large eggs, which may reflect why juvenile survivorship had greater influence on population change rates than did adult survivorship. In contrast, adult survivorship had the greatest influence on population change rates of EB. Comparison of cohorts of 1000 female DR and EB hatchlings highlights the differences in life histories of short- and long-lived turtles: all DR would be dead by the time the last female EB had reached maturity at 21 yrs of age.
Chelonian Conservation and Biology
Vol. 21 • No. 1
Vol. 21 • No. 1
life-history trait values