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J Exp Biol. 2003 Jun;206(Pt 11):1941-51.

Predicting metabolic rate from heart rate in juvenile Steller sea lions Eumetopias jubatus.

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  • 1Marine Mammal Research Unit and Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, Hut B-3, 6248 Biological Sciences Road, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6T 1Z4.


The validity of using heart rate to estimate energy expenditure in free-ranging Steller sea lions Eumetopias jubatus was investigated by establishing whether there is a relationship between heart rate (fH) and oxygen consumption rate ((O(2))) in captive sea lions while swimming and resting. Four trained Steller sea lions (2 males and 2 females; mass 87.4-194.4 kg; age 16 months-3 years) were each equipped with a datalogger and two dorsal subcutaneous electrodes to record electrocardiograms from which fH was calculated. (O(2)) (measured using open-circuit respirometry) was simultaneously recorded while the previously fasted animals were at rest within an enclosed dry metabolic chamber or while they swam in an enclosed swim mill against water currents of various speeds (0-1.5 m s(-1)). The mean regression equation describing the relationship between fH (beats min(-1)) and (O(2)) (ml h(-1) kg(-0.60)) for all four animals was (O(2)) =(71.3f(H)+/-4.3)-(1138.5+/-369.6) (means +/- S.E.M.) (r(2)=0.69, P<0.01). The relationship demonstrated between fH and (O(2)) while fasting suggests that heart rate can potentially be used to monitor energy consumption in free-ranging Steller sea lions. However, a short-term feeding experiment revealed no significant increase in heart rate following a 6 kg or 12 kg meal to match the observed increase in rate of oxygen consumption. This suggests that heart rate may not accurately reflect energy consumption during digestion events. Additional research should be conducted to further elucidate how the relationship between heart rate and oxygen consumption is affected by such factors as digestive state, stress and age.

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