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Physiological constraints and energetic costs of diving behaviour in marine mammals: a review of studies using trained Steller sea lions diving in the open ocean

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Author(s)

David Rosen, Allyson Hindle, Andreas Fahlman, Carling Gerlinsky, Elizabeth Goundie, Gordon Drummond Hastie, Beth Volpov, Andrew Trites

School/Research organisations

Abstract

Marine mammals are characterized as having physiological specializations that maximize the use of oxygen stores to prolong time spent under water. However, it has been difficult to undertake the requisite controlled studies to determine the physiological limitations and trade-offs that marine mammals face while diving in the wild under varying environmental and nutritional conditions. For the past decade, Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) trained to swim and dive in the open ocean away from the physical confines of pools participated in studies that investigated the interactions between diving behaviour, energetic costs, physiological constraints, and prey availability. Many of these studies measured the cost of diving to understand how it varies with behaviour and environmental and physiological conditions. Collectively, these studies show that the type of diving (dive bouts or single dives), the level of underwater activity, the depth and duration of dives, and the nutritional status and physical condition of the animal affect the cost of diving and foraging. They show that dive depth, dive and surface duration, and the type of dive result in physiological adjustments (heart rate, gas exchange) that may be independent of energy expenditure. They also demonstrate that changes in prey abundance and nutritional status cause sea lions to alter the balance between time spent at the surface acquiring oxygen (and offloading CO2 and other metabolic by-products) and time spent at depth acquiring prey. These new insights into the physiological basis of diving behaviour further our understanding of the potential scope for behavioural responses of marine mammals to environmental changes, the energetic significance of these adjustments, and the consequences of approaching physiological limits.
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Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-50
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology B: Biochemical, Systems, and Environmental Physiology
Volume187
Issue number1
Early online date29 Sep 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017

    Research areas

  • Diving physiology, Stellar sea lions, Metabolism, Foraging

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