Ontogeny and ecological significance of metabolic rates in sea turtle hatchlings

Christopher R. Gatto, T. Todd Jones, Brittany Imlach, Richard D. Reina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Sea turtle hatchlings must avoid numerous predators during dispersal from their nesting beaches to foraging grounds. Hatchlings minimise time spent in predator-dense neritic waters by swimming almost continuously for approximately the first 24 h post-emergence, termed the ‘frenzy’. Post-frenzy, hatchling activity gradually declines as they swim in less predator-dense pelagic waters. It is well documented that hatchlings exhibit elevated metabolic rates during the frenzy to power their almost continuous swimming, but studies on post-frenzy MRs are sparse. Results: We measured the frenzy and post-frenzy oxygen consumption of hatchlings of five species of sea turtle at different activity levels and ages to compare the ontogeny of mass-specific hatchling metabolic rates. Maximal metabolic rates were always higher than resting metabolic rates, but metabolic rates during routine swimming resembled resting metabolic rates in leatherback turtle hatchlings during the frenzy and post-frenzy, and in loggerhead hatchlings during the post-frenzy. Crawling metabolic rates did not differ among species, but green turtles had the highest metabolic rates during frenzy and post-frenzy swimming. Conclusions: Differences in metabolic rate reflect the varying dispersal stratagems of each species and have important implications for dispersal ability, yolk consumption and survival. Our results provide the foundations for links between the physiology and ecology of dispersal of sea turtles.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6
Number of pages22
JournalFrontiers in Zoology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Aerobic scope
  • Life history
  • Metabolism
  • Ontogeny
  • Oxygen consumption
  • Sea turtle

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