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J Comp Physiol B. 2017 Jan;187(1):29-50. doi: 10.1007/s00360-016-1035-8. Epub 2016 Sep 29.

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.

Author information

1
Marine Mammal Research Unit, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia, 2202 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada. rosen@zoology.ubc.ca.
2
Marine Mammal Research Unit, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia, 2202 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada.

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.

KEYWORDS:

Diving physiology; Foraging; Metabolism; Steller sea lions

PMID:
27686668
DOI:
10.1007/s00360-016-1035-8
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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