Few studies document early growth of hatchling turtles. We fit growth models to 606 carapace length (CL) measurements of ornate box turtles (Terrapene ornata ornata) for 231 males, 226 females, and 53 individuals of undetermined sex. We used the Richards model to fit 95% confidence bands and 95% prediction bands on the best-fit curves for males and females. We also computed Spearman's rho correlation relating growth ring counts to CL and plotted change in CL for 131 recaptured individuals (45 males, 57 females, and 29 individuals of undetermined sex) for which we had two or more measurements from different years. There was a strong correlation between CL and number of growth rings. Using the properties of the derivative of Richards growth model, juvenile 1, juvenile 2, subadult, and adult stages were defined for male and female growth. Our overall growth models were similar to those for studies of ornate box turtles in Kansas and South Dakota and the desert box turtle (T. o. luteola) in New Mexico; however, our growth stages were defined by smaller turtles. Unlike a previous study in South Dakota, our adult males were larger than adult females. Prior to a CL of approximately 86 mm and 8 growth rings, the carapace grew faster than the plastron, after which the plastron grew faster than the carapace. Five hatchlings' plastra grew an average of 26% (SD = 14%) the first year and the carapace grew an average of 15% (SD = 7%). During the first 3 yrs, most individuals developed only one growth ring per year. If major growth rings approximate age, size can be used to estimate age in ornate box turtles up to 60–90 mm (about 8 growth rings). Between 8 and 12 growth rings, size and age are also correlated, but accuracy of age estimates decreases. Life-history traits such as age at reproductive maturation and size at which individuals are vulnerable to predation are important to assess long-term viability of a population; therefore, understanding environmental impacts on individual growth is important for conservation planning and management of this threatened species in Iowa.
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