The estimation of growth dynamics for Pomacea maculata from hatchling to adult.
Pomacea maculata is a relatively new invasive species to the Gulf Coast region and potentially threatens local agriculture (rice) and ecosystems (aquatic vegetation). The population dynamics of P. maculata have largely been unquantified, and therefore, scientists and field-workers are ill-equipped to accurately project population sizes and the resulting impact of this species. We studied the growth of P. maculata ranging in weights from 6 to 105 g, identifying the sex of the animals when possible. Our studied population had a 4:9 male:female sex ratio. We present the findings from initial analysis of the individual growth data of males and females, from which it was apparent that females were generally larger than males and that small snails grew faster than larger snails. Since efforts to characterize the male and female growth rates from individual data do not yield statistically supported estimates, we present the estimation of several parameterized growth rate functions within a population-level mathematical model. We provide a comparison of the results using these various growth functions and discuss which best characterizes the dynamics of our observed population. We conclude that both males and females exhibit biphasic growth rates, and thus, their growth is size-dependent. Further, our results suggest that there are notable differences between males and females that are important to take into consideration in order to accurately model this species' population dynamics. Lastly, we include preliminary analyses of ongoing experiments to provide initial estimates of growth in the earliest life stages (hatchling to ∼6 g).