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By Victoria Gill Science reporter, BBC Nature

Loggerhead turtles take almost half a century to reach maturity, say scientists.

A female turtle, the researchers report in the journal Functional Ecology, will not start to lay eggs until she is 45.This estimate, based on examination of several decades of data on the turtles’ growth, has implications for conservation efforts.It reveals how long it takes for turtles hatched at a protected nesting site to return to that site to breed.

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“Previous estimates of their age at maturity are all over the place – spanning from 10 years to 35 years”

Prof Graeme Hays from the University of Swansea, one of the authors of the study, explained how reaching maturity so slowly meant that the turtle population was “less resilient” than previously thought.

“The longer an animal takes to reach maturity, the more vulnerable the population is to [man-made] causes of mortality,” said Prof Hays.

This, he explained, was because there was a much higher chance of an individual animal being killed – for example, by being deliberately or accidentally caught in a fishing net – before it had been able to “replace itself” by breeding.  Read the full story