The metabolic cost of turning right side up in the Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca)

Heather Ewart, Peter Tickle, W I Sellers, Markus Lambertz, Dane A Crossley II, Jonathan Codd

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Armoured, rigid bodied animals, such as Testudines, must self-right should they find themselves in an inverted position. The ability to self-right is an essential biomechanical and physiological process that influences survival and ultimately fitness. Traits that enhance righting ability may consequently offer an evolutionary advantage. However, the energetic requirements of self-righting are unknown. Using respirometry and kinematic video analysis, we examined the metabolic cost of self-righting in the terrestrial Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoise and compared this to the metabolic cost of locomotion at a moderate, easily sustainable speed. We found that self-righting is, relatively, metabolically expensive and costs around two times the mass-specific power required to walk. Rapid movements of the limbs and head facilitate successful righting however, combined with the constraints of breathing whilst upside down, contribute a significant metabolic cost. Consequently, in the wild, these animals should favour environments or behaviours where the risk of becoming inverted is reduced.
Original languageEnglish
Article number431
JournalNature Scientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jan 2022


  • Animal Physiology
  • Biomechanics
  • Ecology
  • Ecophysiology
  • Evolution
  • Herpetology
  • Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Respiration


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