Measuring the state of consciousness in a free-living diving sea turtle

Jonathan Houghton, A. Cedras, A.E. Myers, N. Liebsch, J.D. Metcalfe, J.A. Mortimer, G.C. Hays

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


We report on results from two types of data-logger attached to hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys coriacea) in the breeding season at the Seychelles, Indian Ocean. Conventional time-depth recorders (TDRs) showed prolonged bouts of long dives to the seabed, consistent with benthic resting. This behaviour has been widely reported in sea turtles and appears to be a common feature for energy conservation. An Inter-Mandibular Angle Sensor (IMASEN) recorded mouth opening and buccal pumping by one turtle for 2.5 days. Buccal pumping occurred widely while the turtle was submerged, consistent with a function of olfactory sensory perception of the turtle's environment. However, buccal pumping stopped during the middle of long benthic dives consistent with the turtle entering a phase of sleep. It therefore appears that by recording buccal oscillations, it is possible to assess the state of consciousness of turtles allowing the eco-physiology of diving to be more fully explored. (C) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-120
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 03 Mar 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology

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