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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 293:263-271 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/meps293263

Cold-blooded divers: temperature-dependent dive performance in the wild hawksbill turtle Eretmochelys imbricata

Sandra Storch1,*, Rory P. Wilson1, Zandy-Marie Hillis-Starr2, Dieter Adelung1

1Leibniz-Institut für Meereswissenschaften, Experimentelle Ökologie, Düsternbrooker Weg 20, 24105 Kiel, Germany
2National Park Service, Buck Island Reef National Monument, Christiansted, St. Croix, US Virgin Islands 00820, USA

ABSTRACT: Sea turtles are diving ectotherms that are influenced by the temperature of the ambient water, although swimming activity can temper this influence via increased body temperatures enhanced by the thermal inertia of these large animals. We successfully equipped 3 nesting hawksbill turtles Eretmochelys imbricata with time–depth recorders (TDRs) to monitor water temperature and dive depth over the duration of the re-migration interval between 2 successive nesting seasons. Data sets for up to 22 mo were obtained, showing fluctuations in water temperature over the seasons. Nocturnal dive behaviour of the turtles at their foraging grounds revealed an increase in dive duration with decreasing water temperatures in winter. A model is provided to estimate dive duration for the range of temperatures experienced by this species in the wild. The data on vertical velocity during ascent and descent phases as a parameter for activity failed to show thermal dependence. It is concluded that changes in water temperature have an effect on the behavioural ecology of Hawksbill Turtles.

KEY WORDS: Hawksbill turtle · Eretmochelys imbricata · Water temperature · Dive behaviour · Dive duration · Thermal dependence · Q10

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