Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment

Lifespans of marine turtle species range from 50 to 90 years

Embargoed until: Publicly released:
Peer-reviewed: This work was reviewed and scrutinised by relevant independent experts.

A new study has predicted the lifespans of marine turtle species using their DNA. The predictions range from 50.4 years for the Flatback Turtle (Natator depressus) to 90.4 years for the Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea).

Lifespan predictions are vital for managing populations of marine turtles and predicting their likelihood of extinction.

Journal/conference: PLOS ONE

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0236888

Organisation/s: CSIRO, The University of Western Australia, Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, Government of Western Australia

Funder: CSIRO; The North West Shelf Flatback Turtle Conservation Program

Media release

From: CSIRO

A new study has predicted the lifespans of marine turtle species using their DNA.

Maximum lifespan is difficult to determine for wild animal populations, especially for long-lived species.

“Knowing a species maximum lifespan is essential for wildlife management because it is used for population modelling. It is also used to predict the likelihood of extinction,” says Dr Ben Mayne of CSIRO.

“Last year we published research showing it is possible to predict the lifespan of a species if you know the DNA sequences of its genome. Our technique uses gene promoter CpG density and was validated using known lifespans of animal species,” he says.

The researchers have now used this technique to discover the lifespans of five marine turtle species, bypassing the need to study these species over their lifetimes.

“Estimating lifespans of marine turtle species is especially difficult because they have a long lives and migrate vast distances throughout the world’s oceans,” Dr Mayne says.

The predicted lifespans of marine turtle species are:

  • Leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) 90.4 years
  • Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) 62.8 years
  • Olive Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) 54.3 years
  • Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) 53.2 years
  • Flatback sea turtle (Natator depressus) 50.4 years

These lifespan predictions have applications in a broad variety of marine turtle wildlife management including better understanding lifecycles and population viability.

This work involved a team of researchers from CSIRO, University of Western Australia and Government of Western Australia.

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    A Hawksbill sea turtle

    A Hawksbill sea turtle

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