Heart rate and cardiac response to exercise during voluntary dives in captive sea turtles (Cheloniidae)
The Company of Biologists -- Biology Open
DOI 10.1242/bio.049247
  1. Bio-logging
  2. Blood flow
  3. Chelonia mydas
  4. Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  5. Diving physiology


In chelonids, oxygen is primarily stored in the lungs during a dive. Therefore, management of blood oxygen transportation to peripheral tissues by cardiovascular adjustments during submergence is crucial to maximize their dive duration, and consequently, the time spent for ecological activities such as foraging. However, the cardiac response to exercise has rarely been examined in sea turtles. In this study, heart rate and its relationship with exercise during voluntary dives were determined in six captive green turtles (19.4±1.5 kg) by simultaneously recording depth, acceleration and electrocardiogram. Our results demonstrated that the heart rate of green turtles was generally low (11.1±0.4 bpm) during resting dives, but they often exhibited instantaneously extreme tachycardia (up to 78.4 bpm). Green turtles elevated their heart rate up to 39.8±1.5 bpm during ventilation after resting dives, while up to 33.1±1.4 bpm after active dives. The heart rate immediately elevated with onset of exercise, and increased linearly with exercise. This result may indicate that turtles immediately need to transport oxygen from the lungs to peripheral tissues by pulmonary and systemic circulations to meet the metabolic demands of exercise because they mainly store oxygen in their lungs.