For six green turtles, Chelonia mydas, that had nested on Ascension Island in the South Atlantic, we used time-depth recorders to examine their diving behaviour during the subsequent internesting interval (10-12 days). All the turtles performed dives where they remained at a fixed depth for a long period, surfaced briefly and then dived to the same depth again. It is generally believed these dive profiles are caused by the turtles resting on the sea bed. The maximum depth that turtles routinely reached on these resting dives was between 18 and 20 m, with resting dives deeper than 20 m being extremely rare. Resting dive duration increased significantly with deeper dives. From this relationship, and assuming that turtles with fully inflated lungs at the surface need to dive to 19 m to achieve negative buoyancy, we estimated for two turtles that the oxygen consumption during resting dives was 0.016 and 0.020 litres O(2)/kg per h, respectively. This is similar to the value predicted from the allometric scaling relationship for the minimal oxygen consumption of turtles. We calculated that the energy conserved by resting during the internesting period may appreciably increase the reproductive output of females. Copyright 2000 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.