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(BBSRC DTP) The physiology and energetics of locomotion in turtles: linking performance from the organismal to the cellular level

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 31, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Turtles have the most distinctive body plans of vertebrates (1). Turtles appear in the fossil record over 220 million years ago. Turtles are unique among vertebrates in that their whole body is enclosed within a rigid bony shell, composed of the carapace and plastron, that protects from predators. Their shells would appear to constrain their lives; however, turtles inhabit a range of both aquatic and terrestrial habitats and many species effectively move between both (2,3). We will integrate biological, biomechanical and physiological techniques to collate energetics data across three turtle species at the organismal down to the cellular level (4). We have selected turtles that vary in their degree of specialisation to different habitats (5) to provide a broad ecological range that will allow us to better understand turtle locomotor performance, the trade-offs in changing environments and the impact of constraints on their life in a box. Studying turtles will provide an important model for future research on functional diversity, adaptation and evolution. Water and air represent the fluid media in which organism must survive and move and the physical disparities (density, viscosity, gravitational load) between these environments can have important consequences for adaptation and performance of organisms like turtles that routinely transverse between aquatic and terrestrial environments. We will determine how adaptation influences differences in the metabolic cost of transport at the organismal level and investigate muscle and mitochondrial adaptations at the cellular level that ultimately physiologically constrain locomotor performance.

Dr Jonathan Codd Lab:
Dr Gina Galli Lab:

Entry Requirements:
Applications are invited from UK/EU nationals only. Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject.

Funding Notes

This project is to be funded under the BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership. If you are interested in this project, please make direct contact with the Principal Supervisor to arrange to discuss the project further as soon as possible. You MUST also submit an online application form - full details on how to apply can be found on the BBSRC DTP website View Website

As an equal opportunities institution we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.


1. Burke AC (1989) Development of the turtle carapace: implications for the evolution of a novel body plan. J. Morphol. 199: 363-378.
2. Lyson TR et al (2014) Origin of the unique ventilatory apparatus of turtles Nat Comm. 5: 5211.
3. Ernst CH & Barbour RW (1989) Turtles of the world, Washington, DC, Smithsonian Press, USA.
4. Gillis GB & Blob RW (2001) How muscles accommodate movements in different physical environments: aquatic vs. terrestrial locomotion in vertebrates. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. A. 131: 61-75.
5. Biewener AA Gillis GB (1999) Dynamics of muscle function during locomotion: accommodating variable conditions. J. Exp. Biol. 202: 3387-3396

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