Bomb Radiocarbon Dating of the Endangered White Abalone (Haliotis sorenseni): Investigations of Age, Growth and Lifespan

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Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory


Understanding basic life-history characteristics of white abalone (Haliotis sorenseni), such as estimated lifespan, is critical to making informed decisions regarding the recovery of this endangered species. All predictive modelling tools used to forecast the status and health of populations following restoration activities depend on a validated estimate of adult lifespan. Of the seven Haliotis species in California, white abalone is considered to have the highest extinction risk and was the first marine invertebrate listed as an endangered species under the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). Lifespan was previously estimated from observations of early growth; however, no study has generated ages for the largest white abalone. To address questions of age and growth, bomb radiocarbon (C-14) dating was used on shells from large white abalone. Measured bomb C-14 levels were compared to regional C-14 reference records to provide estimates of age, growth and lifespan. Bomb radiocarbon dating indicated that growth was variable among individuals, with a maximum estimated age of 27 years. The findings presented here provide support for previous age and growth estimates and an estimated lifespan near 30 years. These age data support the perception of a critical need for restoring the remnant aging and potentially senescent population.

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Marine and Freshwater Research





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