Diamondback Terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin) are distributed in brackish water habitats along the U.S. east coast from Massachusetts to Texas, but many populations may be in decline. Whereas ample morphological, behavioral, and reproductive information has been collected for terrapins living in temperate salt marsh habitats, comparatively little is known about mangrove terrapins. To understand population structure of mangrove M. terrapin living in a wilderness area, we conducted a capture–recapture study in the remote, protected Big Sable Creek complex of Everglades National Park, Florida. The goals of the study were to collect baseline demographic data and to compare population structure and growth rates of mangrove terrapins with what is known for more well studied salt marsh terrapins in locations that experience human-imposed threats. We marked 300 terrapins; the sex ratio was 1 female:1.2 males. Considerable sexual size dimorphism was apparent, with reproductively mature females three times larger (by mass) than mature males. Eighty percent of females and 94% of males were classified as mature, based on straight plastron length (SPL). For a subset of terrapins not yet at maximum size (n = 39), we measured growth as a change in straight carapace length over time of 0.3–26.4 mm/yr for females (n = 26) and 0.9–14.5 mm/yr for males (n = 13). Our study presents the first demographic data on mangrove M. terrapin in the coastal Everglades.
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Vol. 2008 • No. 1