Energetics during hatchling dispersal of the olive ridley turtle Lepidochelys olivacea using doubly labeled water

Physiol Biochem Zool. Mar-Apr 2006;79(2):389-99. doi: 10.1086/499982. Epub 2006 Feb 6.


Studies of metabolism are central to the understanding of the ecology, behavior, and evolution of reptiles. This study focuses on one phase of the sea turtle life cycle, hatchling dispersal, and gives insight into energetic constraints that dispersal imposes on hatchlings. Hatchling dispersal is an energetically expensive phase in the life cycle of the olive ridley turtle Lepidochelys olivacea. Field metabolic rates (FMRs), determined using the doubly labeled water (DLW) method, for L. olivacea hatchlings digging out of their nest chamber, crawling at the sand surface, and swimming were five, four, and seven times, respectively, the resting metabolic rate (RMR). The cost of swimming was 1.5 and 1.8 times the cost of the digging and crawling phases, respectively, and we estimated that if L. olivacea hatchlings swim at frenzy levels, they can rely on yolk reserves to supply energy for only 3-6 d once they reach the ocean. We compared our RMR and FMR values by establishing an interspecific RMR mass-scaling relationship for a wide range of species in the order Testudines and found a scaling exponent of 1.06. This study demonstrates the feasibility of using the DLW method to estimate energetic costs of free-living sea turtle hatchlings and emphasizes the need for metabolic studies in various life-history stages.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn / metabolism*
  • Body Weight
  • Deuterium
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Oxygen Isotopes
  • Species Specificity
  • Turtles / metabolism*
  • Water / metabolism*


  • Oxygen Isotopes
  • Water
  • Deuterium