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Histological validation of gonad gross morphology to sex juvenile loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta)

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Sea turtles exhibit sexual dimorphism only as adults, hence diagnosing the sex of hatchlings and juveniles requires the employment of different techniques that vary in their level of accuracy and costs. In order to validate the observation of external gross morphology of gonads as a sexing method for juveniles, we compared results obtained in this way with those obtained through histology in 99 loggerhead turtles with curved carapace length (CCL) ranging from 24.0 to 69.0 cm, found in the Adriatic Sea and in the central Mediterranean. Sex was correctly diagnosed in 92.9% of the 99 cases. The highest error rate due to wrong or uncertain sexing was found in turtles with a CCL less than 30.0 cm (33.3%). In turtles with a CCL of 30.0–40.0 cm and 40.0–50.0 cm, the error rates were low (5.3% and 6.7%, respectively), while no errors occurred in larger individuals (CCL greater than 50.0 cm). The results show that gonadal morphology is a reliable sexing method for large juveniles, but for those of less than 30 cm CCL we recommend verification by histology.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2008

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