What brings turtles out to bask at night?

Researchers studied the recently reported behavior in turtles around the world

Nocturnal basking has only recently been reported in wild freshwater turtles, but a recent study found the behavior is widespread and occurs in many species. For the study, published in Global Ecology and Conservation, a team of researchers from around the world put cameras on basking logs to monitor the nocturnal activity of as many freshwater turtle species as possible. Cameras taking one photo every two minutes were set up in 25 locations across Australia, Belize, Germany, India, Seychelles, Senegal, Trinidad and Tobago, the U.S. and South Africa. The cameras captured data on 29 species from seven of the freshwater turtle families. The behavior is widespread among turtle families, said lead author Donald McKnight, a postdoctoral researcher at Australia’s La Trobe University, but it only occurs in the tropics and subtropics. “We think it’s related to temperature,” he said. “The water is staying so warm at night that it’s actually warmer than the turtles like to be, and they can cool down by coming out of the water.”

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Header Image: Researchers around the world used remote cameras to capture freshwater turtles basking at night—a behavior only recently reported Credit: Donald McKnight