Increasing hypoxia progressively slows early embryonic development in an oviparous reptile, the green turtle, Chelonia mydas

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Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) embryos are in an arrested state of development when the eggs are laid, but in the presence of oxygen, arrest is broken and development resumes within 12-16 h. However, the precise oxygen level at which embryos break arrest and continue development is not known. To better understand the impact of oxygen concentration on breaking of arrest and early embryonic development, we incubated freshly laid eggs of the green sea turtle for three days at each of six different oxygen concentrations (less than or equal to 1%, 3%, 5%, 7%, 9% and 21%) and monitored the appearance and growth of white spots on the shell, indicative of embryonic development. As reported previously, white spots did not develop on eggs incubated in anoxia (less than or equal to 1% oxygen). For all other treatments, mean time to white spot detection and white spot growth rate varied inversely with oxygen concentration. In nearly all cases the difference between eggs at different oxygen levels was statistically significant (p ≤ 0.05). This suggests that sea turtle embryonic development may respond to oxygen in a dose-dependent manner. Our results indicate that the development of green turtle embryos may be slowed if they are exposed to the most hypoxic conditions reported in mature natural nests.

Original languageEnglish
Article number220709
Number of pages10
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2022


  • embryonic arrest
  • oxygen availability
  • white spot

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