CZAAWE Resource Article

Feeding status and basking requirements of freshwater turtles in an invasion context
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
Physiology & Behavior
Thermoregulatory behavior and feeding status are strongly related in ectotherms. A trade-off between maintenance of energy balance and digestion efficiency has been recently proposed to affect thermoregulation in these animals. On the other hand, competition for basking sites has been described between Iberian turtles and the introduced red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans). T. scripta negatively interferes with basking behavior of native turtles and benefits from a greater capacity to retain body heat, which may likely result in thermoregulatory advantages for the introduced sliders. Consequently, complex effects and alterations in metabolic rates of native turtles might derive from a deficient basking behavior. We compared the basking requirements of the endangered native Spanish terrapin (Mauremys leprosa) and those of the introduced red-eared slider, analyzing the upper set point temperature (USP) (defined as the body temperature at which basking ceased) of both native and introduced turtles, under feeding and fasting conditions. We found higher values of USP in the native species, and a reduction of this temperature associated with food deprivation in the two turtle species. This adjustment of thermoregulatory behavior to the nutritional status found in freshwater turtles suggests that ectotherms benefit from metabolic depression as an adaptive mechanism to preserve energy during periods of fasting. However, a reduction in metabolic rates induced by competition with sliders might lead M. leprosa to a prolonged deficiency of their physiological functions, thus incurring increased predation risk and health costs, and ultimately favoring the recession of this native species in Mediterranean habitats.