Locomotion and the Cost of Hunting in Large, Stealthy Marine Carnivores
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Foraging by large (>25 kg), mammalian carnivores often entails cryptic tactics to surreptitiously locate and overcome highly mobile prey. Many forms of intermittent locomotion from stroke-and-glide maneuvers by marine mammals to sneak-and-pounce behaviors by terrestrial canids, ursids, and felids are involved. While affording proximity to vigilant prey, these tactics are also associated with unique energetic costs and benefits to the predator. We examined the energetic consequences of intermittent locomotion in mammalian carnivores and assessed the role of these behaviors in overall foraging efficiency. Behaviorally-linked, three-axis accelerometers were calibrated to provide instantaneous locomotor behaviors and associated energetic costs for wild adult Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) diving beneath the Antarctic ice. The results were compared with previously published values for other marine and terrestrial carnivores. We found that intermittent locomotion in the form of extended glides, burst-and-glide swimming, and rollercoaster maneuvers while hunting silverfish (Pleuragramma antarcticum) resulted in a marked energetic savings for the diving seals relative to continuously stroking. The cost of a foraging dive by the seals decreased by 9.2-59.6%, depending on the proportion of time gliding. These energetic savings translated into exceptionally low transport costs during hunting (COTHUNT) for diving mammals. COTHUNT for Weddell seals was nearly six times lower than predicted for large terrestrial carnivores, and demonstrates the importance of turning off the propulsive machinery to facilitate cost-efficient foraging in highly active, air-breathing marine predators.
author list (cited authors)
Williams, T. M., Fuiman, L. A., & Davis, R. W.