Diving Behaviour of a Reptile (Crocodylus Johnstoni) in the Wild: Interactions With Heart Rate and Body Temperature

Physiol Biochem Zool. Jan-Feb 2005;78(1):1-8. doi: 10.1086/425192.


The differences in physical properties of air and water pose unique behavioural and physiological demands on semiaquatic animals. The aim of this study was to describe the diving behaviour of the freshwater crocodile Crocodylus johnstoni in the wild and to assess the relationships between diving, body temperature, and heart rate. Time-depth recorders, temperature-sensitive radio transmitters, and heart rate transmitters were deployed on each of six C. johnstoni (4.0-26.5 kg), and data were obtained from five animals. Crocodiles showed the greatest diving activity in the morning (0600-1200 hours) and were least active at night, remaining at the water surface. Surprisingly, activity pattern was asynchronous with thermoregulation, and activity was correlated to light rather than to body temperature. Nonetheless, crocodiles thermoregulated and showed a typical heart rate hysteresis pattern (heart rate during heating greater than heart rate during cooling) in response to heating and cooling. Additionally, dive length decreased with increasing body temperature. Maximum diving length was 119.6 min, but the greatest proportion of diving time was spent on relatively short (<45 min) and shallow (<0.4 m) dives. A bradycardia was observed during diving, although heart rate during submergence was only 12% lower than when animals were at the surface.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activity Cycles / physiology
  • Alligators and Crocodiles / physiology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Body Temperature
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology*
  • Diving / physiology*
  • Fresh Water
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Light
  • Queensland
  • Telemetry
  • Time Factors