Department of Biology

Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

Professor Peter Teglberg Madsen

Detecting spring after a long winter: coma or slow vigilance in cold, hypoxic turtles?

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Many freshwater turtle species can spend the winter submerged in ice-covered lakes by lowering their metabolism, and it has been proposed that such severe metabolic depression render these turtles comatose. This raises the question of how they can detect the arrival of spring and respond in a sensible way to sensory information during hibernation. Using evoked potentials from cold or hypoxic turtles exposed to vibration and light, we show that hibernating turtles maintain neural responsiveness to light stimuli during prolonged hypoxia. Furthermore, turtles held under hibernation conditions for 14 days increase their activity when exposed to light or elevated temperatures, but not to vibration or increased oxygen. It is concluded that hibernating turtles are not comatose, but remain vigilant during overwintering in cold hypoxia, allowing them to respond to the coming of spring and to adjust their behaviour to specific sensory inputs.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBiology Letters
Volume9
Issue6
Pages (from-to)20130602
ISSN1744-9561
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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