Energetic cost of foraging in free-diving emperor penguins

Nagy, KA, Kooyman GL, Ponganis PJ.  2001.  Energetic cost of foraging in free-diving emperor penguins. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology. 74:541-547.

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adelie penguins, Aptenodytes forsteri, behavior, birds, blood, eudyptula-minor, Mammals, metabolic rates, oxygen stores, weddell seals


Hypothesizing that emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) would have higher daily energy expenditures when foraging for their food than when being hand-fed and that the increased expenditure could represent their foraging cost, we measured field metabolic rates (FMR; using doubly labeled water) over 4-d periods when 10 penguins either foraged under sea ice or were not allowed to dive but were fed fish by hand. Surprisingly, penguins did not have higher rates of energy expenditure when they dove and captured their own food than when they did not forage but were given food. Analysis of time-activity and energy budgets indicated that FMR was about 1.7 x BMR (basal metabolic rate) during the 12 h d(-1) that penguins were lying on sea ice. During the remaining 12 h d(-1), which we termed their "foraging period" of the day, the birds were alert and active (standing, preening, walking, and either free diving or being hand-fed), and their FMR was about 4.1 x BMR. This is the lowest cost of foraging estimated to date among the eight penguin species studied. The calculated aerobic diving limit (ADL(C)), determined with the foraging period metabolic rate of 4.1 x BMR and known O-2 stores, was only 2.6 min, which is far less than the 6-min ADL previously measured with postdive lactate analyses in emperors diving under similar conditions. This indicates that calculating ADL(C) from an at-sea or foraging-period metabolic rate in penguins is not appropriate. The relatively low foraging cost for emperor penguins contributes to their relatively low total daily FMR (2.9 x BMR). The allometric relationship for FMR in eight penguin species, including the smallest and largest living representatives, is kJ d(-1) = 1,185 kg(0.705).