The ontogeny of sea turtle hatchling swimming performance

Christopher R. Gatto, Richard D. Reina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Sea turtle hatchlings experience high mortality rates during dispersal. To minimize time spent in predator-dense waters, hatchlings typically undergo a period of hyperactivity termed the 'frenzy', characterized by almost continuous swimming for ~24 h. Research has focused on swimming performance during the frenzy, but our understanding of changes in swimming performance post-frenzy is limited. Thus, we measured green turtle (Chelonia mydas) hatchling swimming performance during the frenzy and post-frenzy when the turtles were 4, 12 and 24 weeks old. Using load cells, we recorded thrust production, stroke rates and the time turtles spent performing various swimming gaits. We found that the proportion of time spent powerstroking and the thrust generation per powerstroke were the main determinants of overall swimming performance. Older, larger turtles generated more thrust per stroke, but the proportion of time spent powerstroking throughout the entire swimming trial did not differ among age groups. Hatchlings have been thought mainly to use currents to reach nursery foraging grounds, and our findings suggest that hatchling swimming might also play an important role in directing hatchlings to optimal nursery habitats, supporting recent studies. Additionally, turtle size is positively related to swimming performance in post-frenzy turtles, suggesting that faster-growing turtles might have fitness advantages over slower-growing turtles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-182
Number of pages11
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020


  • active dispersal
  • fitness
  • hatchling
  • life history
  • ontogeny
  • sea turtle
  • swimming performance

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