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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 185:101-112 (1999)  -  doi:10.3354/meps185101

Reptilian diving: highly variable dive patterns in the green turtle Chelonia mydas

S. Hochscheid1,*, B. J. Godley2, A. C. Broderick2, R. P. Wilson1

1Institut für Meereskunde, Düsternbrooker Weg 20, D-24105 Kiel, Germany
2Marine Turtle Research Group, School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales Swansea, Singleton Park, Swansea SA2 8PP, United Kingdom
*Present address: Department of Zoology, University of Aberdeen, Tillydrone Avenue, Aberdeen AB24 2TZ, Scotland, United Kingdom. E-mail:

ABSTRACT: Diving reptiles, unlike most diving birds and mammals, return infrequently to the surface to breathe. Spending the bulk of their lives underwater, they are likely to have developed a large variety of specific behavioural patterns different from those of their warm-blooded counterparts. However, for technical reasons, underwater behaviour of these aquatic reptiles remains poorly understood. In this study green turtles Chelonia mydas nesting on Cyprus (Eastern Mediterranean) were equipped with multi-channel data loggers monitoring diving behaviour and activity (via a logger-integrated 3-D compass which served as an activity sensor) during the inter-nesting interval. Data from 2 turtles for 2 consecutive inter-nesting intervals were available for detailed dive analysis. Both turtles showed highly variable dive patterns ranging from travelling subsurface dives to specific dive types such as U- (mainly resting and foraging dives), S- (a form of energy saving swimming) and V-dives. The green turtles stayed near the coast throughout the study, dived no deeper than ca 25 m, but remained underwater for up to ca 40 min. The recordings of the activity sensor revealed high activity levels (less than 20% resting d-1) during the whole inter-nesting period which was attributed to extensive foraging. The combination of both the activity data and the dive data showed that the turtles were engaged in travelling movements for 46% of the inter-nesting time spent underwater, foraged for 34% and rested for 12% of the time. We discuss the physiological, ecological and conservation implications of these results.

KEY WORDS: Sea turtles · Wildlife telemetry · Underwater activity · Dive profiles · Mediterranean

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