Skip to main content

Data from: Energy expenditure of adult green turtles (Chelonia mydas) at their foraging grounds and during simulated oceanic migration

Cite this dataset

Enstipp, Manfred R. et al. (2016). Data from: Energy expenditure of adult green turtles (Chelonia mydas) at their foraging grounds and during simulated oceanic migration [Dataset]. Dryad.


Measuring the energy requirements of animals under natural conditions and determining how acquired energy is allocated to specific activities is a central theme in ecophysiology. Turtle reproductive output is fundamentally linked with their energy balance so a detailed understanding of marine turtle energy requirements during the different phases of their life cycle at sea is essential for their conservation. We used the non-invasive accelerometry technique to investigate the activity patterns and energy expenditure (EE) of adult green turtles (Chelonia mydas) foraging year-round at a seagrass meadow in Mayotte (n = 13) and during simulated oceanic migration (displacement from the nesting beach) off Mohéli (n = 1), in the south-western Indian Ocean. At the foraging site, turtles divided their days between foraging benthically on the shallow seagrass meadow during daylight hours and resting at greater depth on the inner side of the reef slope at night. Estimated oxygen consumption rates (sinline image) and daily energy expenditures (DEE) at the foraging site were low (sinline image during the day was 1·6 and 1·9 times the respective resting rate at night during the austral summer and winter, respectively), which is consistent with the requirement to build up substantial energy reserves at the foraging site, to sustain the energy-demanding breeding migration and reproduction. Dive duration (but not dive depth) at the foraging site shifted significantly with season (dive duration increased with declining water temperatures, Tw), while overall activity levels remained unchanged. In parallel with a significant seasonal decline in Tw (from 28·9 ± 0·1 °C to 25·3 ± 0·4 °C), there was a moderate (˜19%) but significant decline in DEE of turtles during the austral winter (901 ± 111 kJ day−1), when compared with the austral summer (1117 ± 66 kJ day−1). By contrast, the turtle moved continuously during simulated oceanic migration, conducting short/shallow dives in the day, which (predominately at night) were interspersed with longer and deeper ‘pelagic’ dives. Estimated oxygen consumption rates during a simulated migration (1·25 ± 0·16 mL O2 min−1 kg−0·83) were found to be significantly increased over the foraging condition, equal to ˜3 times the resting rate at night (0·42 ± 0·02 mL O2 min−1 kg−0·83), and daily energy expenditure amounted to 2327 ± 292 kJ day−1, underlining the tremendous energetic effort associated with breeding migration. Our study indicates that the accelerometry technique provides a new and promising opportunity to study marine turtle energy relations in great detail and under natural conditions.

Usage notes


Indian Ocean