Behavioral rise in body temperature and tachycardia by handling of a turtle (Clemmys insculpta)

Behav Processes. 2000 Apr 3;49(2):61-68. doi: 10.1016/s0376-6357(00)00067-x.


Three turtles, Clemmys insculpta, were kept together in a terrarium in a climatic chamber at 18 degrees C, with lights on at 07:00 h and off at 19:00 h. In one corner of the terrarium an infrared lamp produced an operative temperature of 42.5 degrees C, thereby allowing behavioral temperature regulation during the light period. When the turtles were handled only once a day for the purpose of taking cloacal temperature, their body temperature held stable at about 22-23 degrees C. Immediately after being handled the turtles sought the radiant heat and regulated their body temperature at about 4 degrees C higher than before the handling. When repeatedly handled every 15 min for 2 h the turtles maintained a high body temperature by their behavior. When not repeatedly handled the turtles returned to their initial preferred body temperature ca 22-23 degrees C within 2 h. It is hypothesized that handling causes in turtles a fever similar to that observed in stressed mammals. The turtles were equipped with an electrocardiogram radio transmitter and their heart rate was recorded at a distance. Heart rate in undisturbed turtles was 28.3+/-0.6 bt/min. During a 1-min handling, their heart rate rose to 40.2+/-0.8 bt/min. This tachycardia persisted several minutes, then their heart rate returned to the baseline value in ca. 10 min. Stress fever and tachycardia are taken as signs of emotion in turtles.