Basking is a common thermoregulatory behaviour in many ectotherms, including reptiles. Because the key physiological processes affecting net energy retention (NER) are temperature dependent, ectotherms have the potential to modulate their energy budget by using basking behaviour. Many aquatic chelonians bask extensively. The energetic significance of basking is, however, largely unknown. We used biologging to measure the body temperature of free-ranging juvenile northern map turtles in Ontario, Canada. We measured the contribution of basking behaviour to the ability of turtles to reach their optimal body temperature for NER. We also used the predicted standard metabolic rate as a proxy to estimate the effects of basking on NER. Our results show that basking is essential for turtles to reach the optimal temperature for NER and suggest that basking behaviour allows turtles to increase their metabolic rate by 17.2 to 30.1%, which should translate into an even greater increase in NER. In addition, our results show that basking behaviour allows turtles to buffer the effects of climatic variations on their Tb and thus potentially on their energy budget. Collectively, our results suggest that basking behaviour has important ramifications for the energy budget, and by extension the fitness, of temperate-zone turtles.
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