The metabolic rate and activity of sea turtles generally decreases with decreasing seasonal ambient temperature. Juvenile loggerhead turtles in the Mediterranean Sea made prolonged inactive dives (>400 min), indicating a state of dormancy during the cold winter period. However, seasonal differences in dive duration were not detected in juvenile loggerheads in the western North Pacific, even though the ambient water temperature changed by more than 10°C. Thus, metabolic states might differ among populations, explaining differences in the diving behaviour of juveniles during winter. Here, we tested the hypothesis that the active overwintering behaviour of juvenile loggerheads in the western North Pacific is driven by a high resting metabolic rate (RMR) with low thermal dependence. The RMR of juveniles in the western North Pacific (N=13) was 1.4–5.7 times higher (Q10=1.8) than that of juveniles in the Mediterranean Sea (Q10=5.4). To validate the high RMR values in the western North Pacific, the difference between core body temperature and ambient water temperature (Tb) was estimated from measured RMR and was compared with measured Tb. The measured and estimated Tb matched each other. In addition, most of the dives conducted by the turtles in the western North Pacific were within the calculated aerobic dive limit (cADL) expected from the measured metabolic rate. Our results indicate that high RMR with low thermal dependence induces active diving during the overwintering periods of juvenile loggerheads in the western North Pacific, supporting the suggestion that metabolic states differ among populations.
Chihiro Kinoshita, Takuya Fukuoka, Yasuaki Niizuma, Tomoko Narazaki, and Katsufumi Sato