Migration provides important insights into sea turtle thermoregulation. Almost every species of sea turtle swims to northern waters, where the ocean is significantly colder than in central America. Green turtles, loggerheads, Kemp’s ridleys, leatherbacks, and one hawksbill have been documented off the coast of New York (Morreale et al, 1992). The leatherback has also been documented off the coast of Canada (Spotila and Standora, 1985) and is the only extant reptile, terrestrial or aquatic, to have been found in Arctic regions (Lutz, 1984).


Green turtle, photo courtesy of Rafe Boulon

In colder waters, a sea turtle cannot function if their body temperatures match those of its surroundings. One of two things could happen; it could succumb to the cold, which is seen in hypothermic stunning, discussed in the next section, or it could maintain an elevated body temperature. Sea turtles regularly migrate to waters colder than their lower critical temperature, proving that they must have endothermic traits in order to withstand such conditions.

Next: Hypothermic Stunning



This web site was completed by Katie Fitzpatrick in partial fulfillment of the requirements for Dr. Michael Dorcas's Biology 312, Animal Physiology, at Davidson College in Fall Semester 2005.

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Please direct all comments and questions to Katie Fitzpatrick at kafitzpatrick@davidson.edu