The cost of foraging by a marine predator, the Weddell seal Leptonychotes weddellii: pricing by the stroke
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Foraging by mammals is a complex suite of behaviors that can entail high energetic costs associated with supporting basal metabolism, locomotion and the digestion of prey. To determine the contribution of these various costs in a free-ranging marine mammal, we measured the post-dive oxygen consumption of adult Weddell seals (N=9) performing foraging and non-foraging dives from an isolated ice hole in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. Dives were classified according to behavior as monitored by an attached video-data logging system (recording activity, time, depth, velocity and stroking). We found that recovery oxygen consumption showed a biphasic relationship with dive duration that corresponded to the onset of plasma lactate accumulation at approximately 23 min. Locomotor costs for diving Weddell seals increased linearly with the number of strokes taken according to the relationship: locomotor cost = -3.78+0.04 x stroke number (r(2)=0.74, N=90 dives), where locomotor cost is in ml O(2) kg(-1). Foraging dives in which seals ingested Pleuragramma antarcticum resulted in a 44.7% increase in recovery oxygen consumption compared to non-foraging dives, which we attributed to the digestion and warming of prey. The results show that the energy expended in digestion for a free-ranging marine mammal are additive to locomotor and basal costs. By accounting for each of these costs and monitoring stroking mechanics, it is possible to estimate the aerobic cost of diving in free-ranging seals where cryptic behavior and remote locations prevent direct energetic measurements.
author list (cited authors)
Williams, T. M., Fuiman, L. A., Horning, M., & Davis, R. W.