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An assessment of the reliability of growth rings counts for age determination in the Hermann's Tortoise Testudo hermanni

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Growth ring counts on the shell have been widely used for age estimation in Chelonians. However, as stated by Wilson et al. (2003), most studies have applied this method without assessing its reliability by proving that 1 : 1 ratio between number of rings and real age exists. In the present study, the reliability of this method is analysed for a population of Hermann's Tortoise, Testudo hermanni introduced in the Ebro Delta (NE Spain). Age estimations were obtained from direct observations of tortoises in the field in 2000 (n = 82) together with those from photographs of the same and other individuals of the population taken between 1991 and 2001 (n= 356). A second photograph was taken at one or more years after the first one for 101 individuals. Results of Model II linear regression analysis indicated that the method was reliable only for tortoises between 0 and 7 years old, whereas tended to underestimate age for those between 8 and 11 years. Since, sexual maturity in this population is attained around 8 years (mean for both sexes), ring counts are only reliable for juveniles and subadults. Finally, it is noteworthy that the results coming for photographs were equivalent to those coming from direct observations in the field.


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