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Buoyancy does not affect diving metabolism during shallow dives in Steller sea lions Eumetopias jubatus

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A. Fahlman, G. D. Hastie, D. A. S. Rosen, Y. Naito, A. W. Trites

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Changes in buoyancy due to seasonal or abnormal changes in body composition are thought to significantly affect the energy budget of marine mammals through changes in diving costs. We assessed how changes in body composition might alter the foraging efficiency of Steller sea lions Eumetopias jubatus by artificially adjusting the buoyancy of trained individuals. PVC tubes were attached to harnesses worn by Steller sea lions that had been trained to feed at fixed depths (10 to 30 m) and to resurface inside a metabolic dome. Buoyancy was altered to simulate the naturally occurring differences in body composition reported in adult females (similar to 12 to 26% subcutaneous fat). Diving characteristics (transit times and time at depth) and aerobic energy expenditure (gas exchange) were measured. We found that foraging cost decreased with the duration of the dive and increased with dive depth. However, changes in body composition did not affect the diving metabolic rate of Steller sea lions for dives between 10 and 30 m. We propose that Steller sea lions may adjust their diving lung volume to compensate for changes in buoyancy to avoid additional metabolic costs.



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-154
Number of pages8
JournalAquatic Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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