• Sea World Research & Rescue Foundation - Funded Project

Feeling the heat? So are sea turtles

PROJECT TITLE: Does incubation temperature determine swimming ability of green turtle hatchlings from natural nests?
RESEARCHERS: Dr. David Booth
LOCATION: Heron Island rookery in the southern Great Barrier Reef

OVERVIEW

Listen to Dr Booth’s keynote presentation from the Inaugural Sea World Research & Rescue Foundation Dinner:

Listen to the Podcast

This project aimed to demonstrate that the temperature of green turtle (Chelonia mydas) nests influences the quality of hatchlings in terms of locomotor (swimming and crawling) performance.

The highest mortality in sea turtle hatchlings occurs during the period between then they escape the nest and reach off-shore waters and this mortality is directly related to their locomotor performance. Because sea turtle populations around the world are endangered or threatened, active management of sea turtle rookeries (breeding locations) is becoming increasingly common.

The information gained from this project could be used by rookery managers to identify nests that are outside the ideal temperature environments, and these nests moved to better locations in order to increase the number of sea turtle hatchlings reaching the open ocean.

During his study Dr Booth discovered:

  • Nest temperature influences the morphology (body) of hatchlings

    • Hatchlings from lower temperature nests were slightly larger but had similar weight than hatchlings from higher nest temperatures

  • Nest temperatures influences locomotor performance

    • Temperatures above 30oC tended to be slower crawlers and had poorer self righting ability

  • Water temperature significantly influenced swimming thrust

    • Hatchlings swimming at 30oC had greater power stroke rates and produced greater thrust than hatchling swimming at 26oC