PRELIMINARY ANALYSIS OF THE EFFECT OF TEMPERATURE ON OVERWINTERING PATTERNS IN EASTERN BOX TURTLES (TERRAPENE CAROLINA) **
In ectothermic animals, environmental temperatures cause alterations in activity, cellular metabolism, and physiological processes. To compensate for nonoptimal temperatures and resource scarcity that often accompany seasonal patterns, some ectotherms undergo brumation, during which their metabolism is slowed to conserve energy needed for future emergence, growth, and reproduction. Globally, winter temperatures are becoming milder, with January 2020 being the hottest January on record, and January 2016 the second hottest. Warmer temperatures during brumation can increase mortality or decrease fitness in ectotherms by increasing metabolism during over-wintering, which can cause significant body mass loss. Mild temperatures may also interfere with physiological mechanisms that regulate emergence from over-wintering. Early emergence presents a risk to ectotherms as spring food sources may not be available, and they may be unable to burrow to safe depths to avoid sudden decreases in temperature that can occur in spring. Body mass losses compounded with early emergence could hinder reproduction which could affect population persistence. Turtles make up a large group of ecologically significant ectotherms since they contribute a wide variety of ecosystem services, including soil maintenance, ecosystem restoration, and seed disbursement. Despite their importance however, many turtle populations are experiencing declines and research on turtles is lacking, especially during overwintering periods. Since 2013, we have documented overwintering patterns and locations in a population of Eastern Box Turtles (Terrapene carolina) in northeastern Georgia using radiotelemetry. In 2019, we added temperature data loggers (iButtons ®) that record environmental and individual turtle temperatures every 3 hours. We plan to observe emergence from brumation and its relationship with temperature in Eastern Box Turtles to increase our understanding of how temperature fluctuations could influence overwintering activities in ectotherms.
University of North Georgia Department of Biology
Collins*, Lauren A.; Neyer, Abigail A.; Hyslop, Natalie L.; and Mook, Jennifer L.
"PRELIMINARY ANALYSIS OF THE EFFECT OF TEMPERATURE ON OVERWINTERING PATTERNS IN EASTERN BOX TURTLES (TERRAPENE CAROLINA) **,"
Georgia Journal of Science, Vol. 79, No. 1, Article 46.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.gaacademy.org/gjs/vol79/iss1/46