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Diving behaviour of Elseya albagula from a naturally flowing and hydrologically altered habitat


Matthew A. Gordos, School of Integrative Biology, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia.
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This study investigated the diving behaviour and performance of the bimodally respiring turtle Elseya albagula within the Burnett River, central Qld, Australia. Diving parameters were recorded using pressure-sensitive time-depth recorders for turtles residing within a free flowing versus regulated reach. Maximum submergence time recorded for El. albagula (greater than 3 hours) is among the longest recorded for a voluntarily diving vertebrate, and is attributed to the turtle's ability to respire aquatically. Median dive times logged for El. albagula within the regulated reach (6.7 min) were threefold longer than values recorded for turtles residing within a naturally flowing creek (1.9 min), with discrepancies in dive duration possibly due to the variable hydrologic flows recorded below the weir. No correlation was observed between dive duration and subsequent surfacing intervals, suggesting that dives remained aerobic throughout the study. Despite considerable differences in the magnitude and daily variation of water flow between the two locations, similar diel activity and surfacing trends were recorded for El. albagula. Turtles undertook deep resting dives (>1.5 m) during the day before moving into shallower habitats (<1.0 m) for the night, while the crepuscular hours were characterized by elevated surfacing frequencies attributed to periods of increased activity possibly associated with foraging.