Hatchling overwintering inside the natal nest is a strategy used by several Northern Hemisphere species of freshwater turtles. We recorded hatchling overwintering in the nest by Chelodina longicollis (Chelidae) in south-eastern Australia, during three reproductive seasons. Hatchlings spent, on average, 320 days inside the nest from the date eggs were laid until emergence. Some nests were carefully opened adjacent to the nest plug, one during winter and one in spring, to confirm that eggs had hatched and were not in diapause, although we could not precisely confirm hatching dates. Despite our small sample size, we observed a dichotomous overwintering strategy, with hatchlings from one nest emerging in autumn and spending their first winter in the aquatic environment, and hatchlings from three nests overwintering in the nest and emerging in spring. These findings expand the phylogenetic range of turtles exhibiting hatchling overwintering behaviour. Future research should evaluate whether this strategy is widespread among other long-necked turtles in temperate regions and examine physiological mechanisms involved in coping with winter temperatures.
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Vol. 63 • No. 4