The relationship between early growth and survival of hatchling saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) in captivity

Matthew Brien, Grahame Webb, Keith Mcguinness, Keith Christian

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    Abstract

    Hatchling fitness in crocodilians is affected by "runtism" or failure to thrive syndrome (FTT) in captivity. In this study, 300 hatchling C. porosus, artificially incubated at 32°C for most of their embryonic development, were raised in semi-controlled conditions, with growth criteria derived for the early detection of FTT (within 24 days). Body mass, four days after hatching (BM4d), was correlated with egg size and was highly clutch specific, while snout-vent length (SVL4d) was much more variable within and between clutches. For the majority of hatchlings growth trajectories within the first 24 days continued to 90 days and could be used to predict FTT affliction up to 300 days, highlighting the importance of early growth. Growth and survival of hatchling C. porosus in captivity was not influenced by initial size (BM4d), with a slight tendency for smaller hatchlings to grow faster in the immediate post-hatching period. Strong clutch effects (12 clutches) on affliction with FTT were apparent, but could not be explained by measured clutch variables or other factors. Among individuals not afflicted by FTT (N = 245), mean growth was highly clutch specific, and the variation could be explained by an interaction between clutch and season. FTT affliction was 2.5 times higher among clutches (N = 7) that hatched later in the year when mean minimum air temperatures were lower, compared with those clutches (N = 5) that hatched early in the year. The results of this study highlight the importance of early growth in hatchling C. porosus, which has implications for the captive management of this species.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-10
    Number of pages10
    JournalPLoS One
    Volume9
    Issue number6
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2014

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