Righting ability in hatchling turtles does not predict survival during dispersal in the field

Timothy S. Mitchell, Erin M. Myers, John K. Tucker, Suzanne E. Mcgaugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


While many studies use laboratory-based whole-organism performance measures as proxies for fitness, the implicit assumption that better laboratory performance translates into higher fitness in the wild is rarely tested. Righting response in turtles is frequently quantified in the laboratory and interpreted as either a measure of coordination or a direct proxy for survival. Here, we quantify two aspects of the righting response (latency time and active righting time) of hatchling red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) in the laboratory and perform a release experiment to measure survival at a critical, terrestrial life-history stage. We found no relationship with active righting time or latency with the number of days hatchlings took to reach the drift fence. We also found no directional selection during dispersal from nest to water on either active righting time (the most commonly reported righting metric) or latency to right. We detected disruptive selection acting on latency time, although latency time also was shown to be highly sensitive to experimental perturbations. Our results, however, do not shed light on the relationship of these performance measures with survival at other life stages, and further studies clarifying the relationship between righting and survival in the field are warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)553-562
Number of pages10
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank L. Flewelling for help with the righting trials and F. Janzen for support and access to materials. We thank three anonymous reviewers for comments that enhanced this article. Work was performed under ISU IACUC=9-08-6630-J. Turtles were collected by John Tucker while employed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. TSM was partially supported by the NSF (DBI-1402202).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 The Linnean Society of London.


  • Natural selection
  • Righting response
  • Turtles
  • Whole-organism performance


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