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Keywords:

  • Rheodytes leukops;
  • Emydura macquarii;
  • freshwater turtles;
  • bimodal respiration;
  • diving behaviour;
  • time-depth recorder;
  • diel trends

Abstract

Time-depth recorders were used to investigate the diving performance and behaviour of two bimodally respiring turtle species, Rheodytes leukops and Emydura macquarii, known to have a high and low reliance on aquatic respiration, respectively. Significant differences in diving performance between R. leukops and E. macquarii were observed in the number of dives/day (39.3±5.38 vs 112.2±11.73 dives/day; mean±se), mean dive length (33.1±7.33 min vs 9.6±2.26 min) and maximum dive length (623±104.74 min vs 67.1±8.14 min), respectively. Differences in diving performance between R. leukops and E. macquarii are attributed to the species' reliance (or lack thereof) upon aquatic respiration. Rheodytes leukops displayed a weak bimodal pattern of increased surfacing frequency in the early morning (05:00–07:00) and late afternoon (14:00–18:00), while E. macquarii displayed a strong bimodal pattern of elevated surfacing frequency over similar time periods. Daily patterns of increased surfacing frequency for both species failed to correlate with fluctuating aquatic Po2 levels or water temperature, and may instead be explained by the heightened activity levels of both species during twilight.