Basal and stress-induced corticosterone levels in olive ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) in relation to their mass nesting behavior. Academic Article uri icon


  • Adrenocortical responsiveness to turning stress was examined in wild, reproductively-active olive ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) in relation to their mass nesting (arribada) behavior. We hypothesized that the high sensitivity threshold (HST) observed in ovipositing sea turtles is associated with a diminished sensitivity of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis to stressful stimuli in arribada females. We tested this hypothesis by determining whether arribada females exhibited an increased activation threshold of the HPA axis to an imposed stressor (turning stress). Mean basal corticosterone (B) and glucose levels were below 1.0 ng/ml and 60 mg/dl, respectively. Basal B remained unchanged throughout a 24-hr period in basking females. Most animals responded to turning stress with elevated mean B levels (up to 6.5 ng/ml after 6 hr) and no increase in circulating glucose. Nearly 50% of females (and none of the males) were refractory to the stimulation. Males exhibited the most rapid response, with B levels significantly elevated by 20 min over basal levels. Among females, arribada and solitary nesters exhibited a slower rate of response than basking, non-nesting animals. These results demonstrate that olive ridleys exhibit stress-induced changes in circulating B which are slower than those observed in most reptilian and in mammalian, avian, and piscine species. Furthermore, the presence of refractory females and the relatively slower increase in B in arribada and solitary nesters indicate a hyporesponsiveness of the HPA axis to turning stress in nesting olive ridleys. The hyporesponsiveness may be part of a mechanism to facilitate arribada nesting. J. Exp. Zool. 284:652-662, 1999.

published proceedings

  • J Exp Zool

author list (cited authors)

  • Valverde, R. A., Owens, D. W., MacKenzie, D. S., & Amoss, M. S.

citation count

  • 45

complete list of authors

  • Valverde, RA||Owens, DW||MacKenzie, DS||Amoss, MS

publication date

  • November 1999