Basking in the Sun is a Behavior Unique to Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles!

  • “The only species of Sea Turtle that comes up on land to bask in the sun is the Green Sea Turtle, Chelonia mydas. Among populations of Green Sea Turtles that have been reported to bask, only Hawaiian Greens (known to native Hawaiians as “Honu”) are known to routinely bask on beaches.”
  • “Other populations of Green Turtles, as well as other species of Sea Turtles (such as Loggerheads, Leatherbacks, and Kemp’s Ridley’s) come to land to lay their eggs, but do not exhibit this “sunbathing” behavior.”
  • “While Hawaiian Green Turtles are important for studies because of the number of turtles consistently basking, very little is actually known about the biology of basking Sea Turtles.”
  • “A study conducted by G. Causey Whittow of the Kewalo Marine Laboratory in Honolulu, Hawaii focused on “basking behavior” which included the turtle’s breathing patterns, as well as sand flipping.”
  • “Basking Behavior: The turtle began to come ashore to begin basking around mid-morning, and continued to bask throughout the afternoon. The turtles were very inactive while on shore, the only movements were when they lifted their head to breathe, and also “sand flipping.”
  • “Breathing Pattern: The breathing pattern exhibited by the basking turtles, “consisted of single respirations alternating with long periods of apnea (breath-holding).”
  • “Sand Flipping: The turtles used their front flippers to flip sand onto their carapaces. It was found that the sand flipping did not occur until the turtles’ carapace was dry, and would also occur more frequently on hot days.”
  • “While scientists are still unsure why Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles engage in this basking behavior, the study suggests that the turtles derive a number of benefits from the basking including: the synthesis of vitamin D, the destruction of algae, the improvement of their digestive systems, and the ability to rest while evading predatory tiger sharks.”

Works Cited:  Whittow, G. Causey. “The Thermal Ecology of Basking Green Turtles.” National Geographic Society (1977): 789-96. Web. 18 Nov. 2012. <swfsc.noaa.gov/publications/CR/1985/8595.>

Posted in Turtles
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