Physiological, behavioral, and ecological aspects of migration in reptiles

J Comp Physiol B. 2010 Jan;180(1):1-23. doi: 10.1007/s00360-009-0415-8.


Seasonal movements between foraging, breeding, and overwintering sites occur in a wide variety of reptile species. Terrestrial snakes, lizards, and turtles migrate short distances (\20 km) between seasonal habitats, whereas fully aquatic marine turtles migrate hundreds to thousands of kilometers between foraging and breeding areas. The purpose of this article is to summarize aspects of migratory physiology and behavior in reptiles, particularly with regards to energetics and sensory mechanisms for navigation and orientation. We discuss the influence of aerobic scope, endurance, and cost of transport on migratory capacity, the effects of temperature and circulating hormones on activity and behavior, and mechanisms of detecting and transducing environmental cues to successfully navigate and orient toward a goal during migration. Topics worthy of further research are highlighted in the text, and we conclude with a discussion of how information on migration patterns of reptiles may be used to manage and conserve threatened populations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Migration / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Cues
  • Ecosystem*
  • Endangered Species
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Female
  • Life Cycle Stages
  • Male
  • Orientation
  • Reptiles / physiology*
  • Sensation