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Patterns of activity and body temperature of Aldabra giant tortoises in relation to environmental temperature


Falcón, Wilfredo; Baxter, Rich P; Furrer, Samuel; Bauert, Martin; Hatt, Jean-Michel; Schaepman-Strub, Gabriela; Ozgul, Arpat; Bunbury, Nancy; Clauss, Marcus; Hansen, Dennis M (2018). Patterns of activity and body temperature of Aldabra giant tortoises in relation to environmental temperature. Ecology and Evolution, (8):2108-2121.

Abstract

We studied the temperature relations of wild and zoo Aldabra giant tortoises (Aldabrachelys gigantea) focusing on (1) the relationship between environmental temperature and tortoise activity patterns (n = 8 wild individuals) and (2) on tortoise body temperature fluctuations, including how their core and external body temperatures vary in relation to different environmental temperature ranges (seasons; n = 4 wild and n = 5 zoo individuals). In addition, we surveyed the literature to review the effect of body mass on core body temperature range in relation to environmental temperature in the Testudinidae. Diurnal activity of tortoises was bimodally distributed and influenced by environmental temperature and season. The mean air temperature at which activity is maximized was 27.9°C, with a range of 25.8–31.7°C. Furthermore, air temperature explained changes in the core body temperature better than did mass, and only during the coldest trial, did tortoises with higher mass show more stable temperatures. Our results, together with the overall Testudinidae overview, suggest that, once variation in environmental temperature has been taken into account, there is little effect of mass on the temperature stability of tortoises. Moreover, the presence of thermal inertia in an individual tortoise depends on the environmental temperatures, and we found no evidence for inertial homeothermy. Finally, patterns of core and external body temperatures in comparison with environmental temperatures suggest that Aldabra giant tortoises act as mixed conformer–regulators. Our study provides a baseline to manage the thermal environment of wild and rewilded populations of an important island ecosystem engineer species in an era of climate change.

Abstract

We studied the temperature relations of wild and zoo Aldabra giant tortoises (Aldabrachelys gigantea) focusing on (1) the relationship between environmental temperature and tortoise activity patterns (n = 8 wild individuals) and (2) on tortoise body temperature fluctuations, including how their core and external body temperatures vary in relation to different environmental temperature ranges (seasons; n = 4 wild and n = 5 zoo individuals). In addition, we surveyed the literature to review the effect of body mass on core body temperature range in relation to environmental temperature in the Testudinidae. Diurnal activity of tortoises was bimodally distributed and influenced by environmental temperature and season. The mean air temperature at which activity is maximized was 27.9°C, with a range of 25.8–31.7°C. Furthermore, air temperature explained changes in the core body temperature better than did mass, and only during the coldest trial, did tortoises with higher mass show more stable temperatures. Our results, together with the overall Testudinidae overview, suggest that, once variation in environmental temperature has been taken into account, there is little effect of mass on the temperature stability of tortoises. Moreover, the presence of thermal inertia in an individual tortoise depends on the environmental temperatures, and we found no evidence for inertial homeothermy. Finally, patterns of core and external body temperatures in comparison with environmental temperatures suggest that Aldabra giant tortoises act as mixed conformer–regulators. Our study provides a baseline to manage the thermal environment of wild and rewilded populations of an important island ecosystem engineer species in an era of climate change.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
05 Vetsuisse Faculty > Veterinary Clinic > Department of Small Animals
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
630 Agriculture
Uncontrolled Keywords:Ecology, Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics, Nature and Landscape Conservation
Language:English
Date:2018
Deposited On:09 Mar 2018 15:20
Last Modified:19 Aug 2018 14:53
Publisher:Wiley Open Access
ISSN:2045-7758
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.3766
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID31003A_143940
  • : Project TitleFrom understanding to predicting: Giant tortoises as drivers of the seed dispersal network of Aldabra

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