Regional blood flow in sea turtles: Implications for heat exchange in an aquatic ectotherm

S Hochscheid, F Bentivegna, J R Speakman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Despite substantial knowledge on thermoregulation in reptiles, the mechanisms involved in heat exchange of sea turtles have not been investigated in detail. We studied blood flow in the front flippers of two green turtles, Chelonia mydas, and four loggerhead turtles, Caretta caretta, using Doppler ultrasound to assess the importance of regional blood flow in temperature regulation. Mean blood flow velocity and heart rate were determined for the water temperature at which the turtles were acclimated (19.3degrees-22.5degreesC) and for several experimental water temperatures (17degrees-32degreesC) to which the turtles were exposed for a short time. Flipper circulation increased with increasing water temperature, whereas during cooling, flipper circulation was greatly reduced. Heart rate was also positively correlated with water temperature; however, there were large variations between individual heart rate responses. Body temperatures, which were additionally determined for the two green turtles and six loggerhead turtles, increased faster during heating than during cooling. Heating rates were positively correlated with the difference between acclimation and experimental temperature and negatively correlated with body mass. Our data suggest that by varying circulation of the front flippers, turtles are capable of either transporting heat quickly into the body or retaining heat inside the body, depending on the prevailing thermal demands.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-76
Number of pages11
JournalPhysiological and Biochemical Zoology
Volume75
Publication statusPublished - 2002

Keywords

  • RANGING LOGGERHEAD TURTLES
  • CHELONIA-MYDAS
  • CARETTA-CARETTA
  • SATELLITE TELEMETRY
  • BODY TEMPERATURES
  • ASCENSION ISLAND
  • THERMAL BIOLOGY
  • DIVING BEHAVIOR
  • GREEN TURTLES
  • THERMOREGULATION

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