Synchronous activity lowers the energetic cost of nest escape for sea turtle hatchlings

Rusli, Mohd Uzair, Booth, David T. and Joseph, Juanita (2016) Synchronous activity lowers the energetic cost of nest escape for sea turtle hatchlings. Journal of Experimental Biology, 219 10: 1505-1513. doi:10.1242/jeb.134742

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Author Rusli, Mohd Uzair
Booth, David T.
Joseph, Juanita
Title Synchronous activity lowers the energetic cost of nest escape for sea turtle hatchlings
Journal name Journal of Experimental Biology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0022-0949
Publication date 2016-05-01
Year available 2016
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1242/jeb.134742
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Volume 219
Issue 10
Start page 1505
End page 1513
Total pages 9
Place of publication Cambridge, United Kingdom
Publisher The Company of Biologists
Language eng
Formatted abstract
A potential advantage of group movement in animals is increased locomotion efficiency. This implies a reduced energetic cost for individuals that occur in larger groups such as herds, flocks and schools. When chelonian hatchlings hatch in the underground nest with finite energy for their post-hatching dispersal phase, they face the challenge of minimizing energetic expenditure while escaping the nest. The term ‘social facilitation’ has been used to describe the combined digging effort of sea turtle hatchlings during nest escape. Given that in a normal clutch, a substantial part of the energy reserve within the residual yolk is used by hatchlings in the digging out process, a decreased cohort size may reduce the energy reserve available to cross the beach and sustain the initial swimming frenzy. This hypothesis was experimentally tested by varying cohort size in hatchling green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and measuring energy expenditure during the nest escape process using open-flow respirometry. The energetic cost of escaping through 40 cm of sand was calculated to vary between 4.4 and 28.3 kJ per individual, the cost decreasing as the number of individuals in the cohort increased. This represents 11–68% of the energy contained in a hatchling’s residual yolk at hatching. The reduced energetic cost associated with large cohorts resulted from both a lower metabolic rate per individual and a shortened nest escape time. We conclude that synchronous digging activity of many hatchlings during nest escape evolved not only to facilitate rapid nest emergence but also to reduce the energetic cost to individuals.
Keyword Aggregation behaviour
Social facilitation
Metabolic expenditure
Green turtle
Oxygen consumption
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
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