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4 August 2020 Partner Release

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

CSIRO Research scientist Dr Ben Mayne said 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," Dr Mayne said.

"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."

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 said.

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.

This media release originally appeared here: Lifespans of marine turtle species range from 50 to 90 years

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