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Research Technical Report

Sink or Swim: Strategies for Cost-Effcient Diving by Marine Mammals

Williams, T.M., R.W. Davis, L.A. Fuiman, J. Francis, B.J. Le Boeuf, M. Horning, J. Calambokidis, and D.A. Croll (2000)

Science 288:133-136

ABSTRACT

Locomotor activity by diving marine mammals is accomplished while breath-holding and often exceeds predicted aerobic capacities. Video sequences of freely diving seals and whales wearing submersible cameras reveal a behavioral strategy that improves energetic effciency in these animals. Prolonged gliding (greater than 78% descent duration) occurred during dives exceeding 80 meters in depth. Gliding was attributed to buoyancy changes with lung compression at depth. By modifying locomotor patterns to take advantage of these physicalchanges, Weddell seals realized a 9.2 to 59.6% reduction in diving energetic costs. This energy-conserving strategy allows marine mammals to increase aerobic dive duration and achieve remarkable depths despite limited oxygen availability when submerged.

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