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2000
Ancel, A, Starke LN, Ponganis PJ, Van Dam R, Kooyman GL.  2000.  Energetics of surface swimming in Brandt's cormorants (Phalacrocorax penicillatus Brandt). Journal of Experimental Biology. 203:3727-3731. AbstractWebsite

The energy requirements of Brandt's cormorants (Phalacrocorax penicillatus) during surface swimming were measured in birds swimming under a metabolic chamber in a water flume. From the oxygen consumption recordings, we extrapolated the metabolic rate and cost of transport at water speeds ranging from 0 to 1.3 ms(-1). In still water, the birds' mean mass-specific rate of oxygen consumption ((V)over dot(O2),) while floating at the surface was 20.2ml O-2 min(-1) kg(-1), 2.1 times the predicted resting metabolic rate. During steady-state voluntary swimming against a how, their Po, increased with water speed, reaching 74 mi O-2 min(-1) kg(-1) at 1.3 ms(-1), which corresponded to an increase in metabolic rate from 11 to 25 W kg(-1). The cost of transport decreased,vith swimming velocity, approaching a minimum of 19 J kg(-1) m(-1) for a swimming speed of 1.3 m s(-1) Surface swimming in the cormorant costs approximately 18% less than sub-surface swimming. This confirms similar findings in tufted ducks (Aythya fuligula) and supports the hypothesis that increased energy requirements are necessary in these bird diving to overcome buoyancy and heat submergence.

Ponganis, PJ, Kooyman GL.  2000.  Diving physiology of birds: a history of studies on polar species. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology a-Molecular and Integrative Physiology. 126:143-151.   10.1016/s1095-6433(00)00208-7   AbstractWebsite

Our knowledge of avian diving physiology has been based primarily on research with polar species. Since Scholander's 1940 monograph, research has expanded from examination of the 'diving reflex' to studies of free-diving birds, and has included laboratory investigations of oxygen stores, muscle adaptations, pressure effects, and cardiovascular/metabolic responses to swimming exercise. Behavioral and energetic studies at sea have shown that common diving durations of many avian species exceed the calculated aerobic diving limits (ADL). Current physiological research is focused on factors, such as heart rate and temperature, which potentially affect the diving metabolic rate and duration of aerobic diving. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.

Ponganis, PJ, Van Dam RP, Marshall G, Knower T, Levenson DH.  2000.  Sub-ice foraging behavior of emperor penguins. Journal of Experimental Biology. 203:3275-3278. AbstractWebsite

Emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) were equipped with a remote underwater video camera, the Crittercam, to evaluate sub-ice foraging behavior while the birds dived from an isolated dive hole. Three birds dived and foraged successfully for Ih periods after being trained to wear and to dive with a harness for camera attachment. Video and depth profile recordings revealed that emperor penguins travel at shallow depths (<50 m), ascend to the undersurface of the ice to feed on fish, and descend back to depth to return to the exit hole. Although the mean durations of dives of individual birds with the Crittercam were 21-35 % shorter than the diving durations of these same birds without the camera, the dive profiles in both situations were similar, thus demonstrating a similar foraging strategy in birds diving without the camera. Despite shorter diving durations with the camera, the penguins were still successful at prey capture in 80 % of 91 dives greater than 1 min in duration. Prey included the sub-ice fish Pagothenia borchgrevinki. Hunting ascents (from depth to within 5 m of the surface) occurred in 85 % of dives, ranged from zero to three per dive, and were associated with successful prey capture in 77 % of 128 ascents, Occasionally, several fish were captured during a single ascent, These observations and this application of video technology create a model for further physiological and behavioral studies of foraging, and also emphasize the potential importance of shallow dives as sources of food intake for emperor penguins during foraging trips to sea.

2001
Ponganis, PJ, Van Dam RP, Knower T, Levenson DH.  2001.  Temperature regulation in emperor penguins foraging under sea ice. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology a-Molecular and Integrative Physiology. 129:811-820.   10.1016/s1095-6433(01)00349-x   AbstractWebsite

Inferior vena caval (IVC) and anterior abdominal (AA) temperatures were recorded in seven emperor penguins (Aptenodytes foresteri) foraging under sea ice in order to evaluate the hypothesis that hypothermia-induced metabolic suppression might extend aerobic diving time. Diving durations ranged from 1 to 12.5 min, with 39% of dives greater than the measured aerobic dive limit of 5.6 min. Anterior abdominal temperature decreased progressively throughout dives, and partially returned to pre-dive values during surface intervals. The lowest AA temperature was 19 degreesC. However, mean AA temperatures during dives did not correlate with diving durations. In six of seven penguins, only minor fluctuations in IVC temperatures occurred during diving. These changes were often elevations in temperature. In the one exception, although IVC temperatures decreased, the reductions were less than those in the anterior abdomen and did not correlate with diving durations. Because of these findings, we consider it unlikely that regional hypothermia in emperor penguins leads to a significant reduction in oxygen consumption of the major organs within the abdominal core. Rather, temperature profiles during dives are consistent with a model of regional heterothermy with conservation of core temperature, peripheral vasoconstriction, and cooling of an outer body shell. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.

Nagy, KA, Kooyman GL, Ponganis PJ.  2001.  Energetic cost of foraging in free-diving emperor penguins. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology. 74:541-547.   10.1086/322165   AbstractWebsite

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).

Jobsis, PD, Ponganis PJ, Kooyman GL.  2001.  Effects of training on forced submersion responses in harbor seals. Journal of Experimental Biology. 204:3877-3885. AbstractWebsite

In several pinniped species, the heart rates observed during unrestrained dives are frequently higher than the severe bradycardias recorded during forced submersions. To examine other physiological components of the classic 'dive response' during such moderate bradycardias, a training protocol was developed to habituate harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) to short forced submersions. Significant changes were observed between physiological measurements made during naive and trained submersions (3-3.5min). Differences were found in measurements of heart rate during submersion (naive 18 +/-4.3 beats min(-1) versus trained 35 +/-3.4 beats min(-1)), muscle blood flow measured using laser-Doppler flowmetry (naive 1.8 +/-0.8 ml min(-1) 100 g(-1) versus trained 5.8 +/-3.9 ml min(-1) 100 g(-1)), change in venous P-O 2 (naive -0.44 +/-1.25 kPa versus trained -1.48 +/-0.76 kPa) and muscle deoxygenation rate (naive -0.67 +/-0.27 mvd s(-1) versus trained -0.51 +/-0.18 mvd s(-1), a relative measure of muscle oxygenation provided by the Vander Niroscope, where mvd are milli-vander units). In contrast to the naive situation, the post-submersion increase in plasma lactate levels was only rarely significant in trained seals. Resting eupneic (while breathing) heart rate and total oxygen consumption rates (measured in two seals) were not significantly different between the naive and trained states. This training protocol revealed that the higher heart rate and greater muscle blood flow in the trained seals were associated with a lower muscle deoxygenation rate, presumably secondary to greater extraction of blood O-2 during trained submersions. Supplementation of muscle oxygenation by blood O-2 delivery during diving would increase the rate of blood O-2 depletion but could prolong the duration of aerobic muscle metabolism during diving. This alteration of the dive response may increase the metabolic efficiency of diving.

2002
Ponganis, PJ, Kreutzer U, Sailasuta N, Knower T, Hurd R, Jue T.  2002.  Detection of myoglobin desaturation in Mirounga angustirostris during apnea. American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology. 282:R267-R272. AbstractWebsite

H-1 NMR solution-state study of elephant seal (Mirounga angustirostris) myoglobin (Mb) and hemoglobin (Hb) establishes the temperature-dependent chemical shifts of the proximal histidyl NdeltaH signal, which reflects the respective intracellular and vascular PO2 in vivo. Both proteins exist predominantly in one major isoform and do not exhibit any conformational heterogeneity. The Mb and Hb signals are detectable in M. angustirostris tissue in vivo. During eupnea M. angustirostris muscle maintains a well-saturated MbO(2). However, during apnea, the deoxymyoglobin proximal histidyl NdeltaH signal becomes visible, reflecting a declining tissue PO2. The study establishes a firm methodological basis for using NMR to investigate the metabolic responses during sleep apnea of the elephant seal and to secure insights into oxygen regulation in diving mammals.

2003
Ponganis, PJ, Kooyman GL, h. Ridgway S.  2003.  Comparative Diving Physiology. Bennett and Elliott's physiology and medicine of diving. ( Brubakk AO, Neuman TS, Bennett PB, Elliott DH, Eds.).:16., Edinburgh; New York: Saunders Abstract
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Ponganis, PJ, Van Dam RP, Levenson DH, Knower T, Ponganis KV, Marshall G.  2003.  Regional heterothermy and conservation of core temperature in emperor penguins diving under sea ice. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology a-Molecular & Integrative Physiology. 135:477-487.   10.1016/s1095-6433(03)00133-8   AbstractWebsite

Temperatures were recorded at several body sites in emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) diving at an isolated dive hole in order to document temperature profiles during diving and to evaluate the role of hypothermia in this well-studied model of penguin diving physiology. Grand mean temperatures (+/-S.E.) in central body sites during dives were: stomach: 37.1 +/- 0.2 degreesC (n = 101 dives in five birds), pectoral muscle: 37.8 +/- 0.1 degreesC (n = 71 dives in three birds) and axillary/brachial veins: 37.9 +/- 0.1 degreesC (n = 97 dives in three birds). Mean diving temperature and duration correlated negatively at only one site in one bird (femoral vein, r = -0.59, P < 0.05; range < 1 degreesC). In contrast, grand mean temperatures in the wing vein, foot vein and lumbar subcutaneous tissue during dives were 7.6 +/- 0.7 degreesC (n = 157 dives in three birds), 20.2 +/- 1.2 degreesC (n = 69 in three birds) and 35.2 +/- 0.2 degreesC (n = 261 in six birds), respectively. Mean limb temperature during dives negatively correlated with diving duration in all six birds (r = -0.29 to -0.60, P < 0.05). In two of six birds, mean diving subcutaneous temperature negatively correlated with diving duration (r = -0.49 and -0.78, P < 0.05). Sub-feather temperatures decreased from 31 to 35 T during rest periods to a grand mean of 15.0 +/- 0.7 degreesC during 68 dives of three birds; mean diving temperature and duration correlated negatively in one bird (r = -0.42, P < 0.05). In general, pectoral, deep venous and even stomach temperatures during diving reflected previously measured vena caval temperatures of 37-39 degreesC more closely than the anterior abdominal temperatures (19-30 degreesC) recently recorded in diving emperors. Although prey ingestion can result in cooling in the stomach, these findings and the lack of negative correlations between internal temperatures and diving duration do not support a role for hypothermia-induced metabolic suppression of the abdominal organs as a mechanism of extension of aerobic dive time in emperor penguins diving at the isolated dive hole. Such high temperatures within the body and the observed decreases in limb, anterior abdomen, subcutaneous and sub-feather temperatures are consistent with preservation of core temperature and cooling of an outer body shell secondary to peripheral vasoconstriction, decreased insulation of the feather layer, and conductive/convective heat loss to the water environment during the diving of these emperor penguins. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science Inc. All fights reserved.

2004
Ponganis, PJ, van Dam RP, Knower T, Levenson DH, Ponganis KV.  2004.  Deep dives and aortic temperatures of emperor penguins: new directions for bio-logging at the isolated dive hole. Memoirs of National Institute of Polar Research Special Issue. 58:155-161. AbstractWebsite
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Kooyman, GL, Ponganis PJ.  2004.  The icing of external recorders during the polar winter. Memoirs of National Institute of Polar Research Special Issue. 58:183-187. AbstractWebsite
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2005
Knower Stockard, T, Heil J, Meir JU, Sato K, Ponganis KV, Ponganis PJ.  2005.  Air sac P-O2 and oxygen depletion during dives of emperor penguins. Journal of Experimental Biology. 208:2973-2980.   10.1242/jeb.01687   AbstractWebsite

In order to determine the rate and magnitude of respiratory O-2 depletion during dives of emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri), air sac O-2 partial pressure (PO2) was recorded in 73 dives of four birds at an isolated dive hole. These results were evaluated with respect to hypoxic tolerance, the aerobic dive limit (ADL; dive duration beyond which there is post-dive lactate accumulation) and previously measured field metabolic rates (FMRs). 55% of dives were greater in duration than the previously measured 5.6-min ADL. P-O2 and depth profiles revealed compression hyperoxia and gradual O-2 depletion during dives. 42% of final P(O2)s during the dives (recorded during the last 15 s of ascent) were < 20 mmHg (< 2.7 kPa). Assuming that the measured air sac P-O2 is representative of the entire respiratory system, this implies remarkable hypoxic tolerance in emperors. In dives of durations greater than the ADL, the calculated end-of-dive air sac O-2 fraction was < 4%. The respiratory O-2 store depletion rate of an entire dive, based on the change in O-2 fraction during a dive and previously measured diving respiratory volume, ranged from I to 5 ml O-2 kg(-1) min(-1) and decreased exponentially with diving duration. The mean value, 2.1 +/- 0.8 ml O-2 kg(-1) min(-1), was (1) 19-42% of previously measured respiratory O-2 depletion rates during forced submersions and simulated dives, (2) approximately one-third of the predicted total body resting metabolic rate and (3) approximately 10% of the measured FMR. These findings are consistent with a low total body metabolic rate during the dive.

2007
Kooyman, GL, Ponganis PJ.  2007.  The initial journey of juvenile emperor penguins. Aquatic Conservation-Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems. 17:S37-S43.   10.1002/aqc.930   AbstractWebsite

1. The first major journey of emperor penguins, among several in their lifetime, is the juveniles' dispersal from their natal colony on a trip that takes them beyond Antarctic waters. The route taken by fledglings from Cape Washington (74.5 degrees S; 165.4 degrees E) was Studied by applying satellite transmitters to ten individuals during December 1994-1996. In January 2001 transmitters with longer transmission capacity were also applied to six hand-fed fledglings, which had been held captive for one month while attaining a body mass exceeding that of wild birds. These post-captive birds were released at the ice edge of McMurdo Sound (77.5 degrees S; 165.0 degrees E), which is in the vicinity of other emperor penguin colonies, and 320km south of their natal colony of Cape Washington. 2. Independent of their parents, the wild birds travelled north-east for the next two months, reaching locations as low as 57 degrees S. The post-captive birds travelled north also, but their trek reached only to about 63 degrees S before they turned south, or remained near their most northerly position from March through May. 3. It was concluded that among colonies in the southern Ross Sea: (a) most healthy fledglings Survive at least the first two months at sea, feeding themselves as they go; (b) the Cape Washington fledglings travelled as far north as 57 degrees S, and much of this journey was in ice free waters; (c) by April, the post-captive birds reached at least as far as the large-scale pack ice edge and possibly beyond the edge Lit 63 degrees S; (d) by early March the trend north ends, and by about late March the birds travel to, or remain near the northern ice edge. 4. The reason the birds travel so far north remains a mystery. Copyright (c) 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Sato, K, Watanuki Y, Takahashi A, Miller PJO, Tanaka H, Kawabe R, Ponganis PJ, Handrich Y, Akamatsu T, Watanabe Y, Mitani Y, Costa DP, Bost CA, Aoki K, Amano M, Trathan P, Shapiro A, Naito Y.  2007.  Stroke frequency, but not swimming speed, is related to body size in free-ranging seabirds, pinnipeds and cetaceans. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences. 274:471-477.   10.1098/rspb.2006.0005   AbstractWebsite

It is obvious, at least qualitatively, that small animals move their locomotory apparatus faster than large animals: small insects move their wings invisibly fast, while large birds flap their wings slowly. However, quantitative observations have been difficult to obtain from free-ranging swimming animals. We surveyed the swimming behaviour of animals ranging from 0.5 kg seabirds to 30 000 kg sperm whales using animal-borne accelerometers. Dominant stroke cycle frequencies of swimming specialist seabirds and marine mammals were proportional to mass(-0.29) (R-2=0.99, n=17 groups), while propulsive swimming speeds of 1-2 m s(-1) were independent of body size. This scaling relationship, obtained from breath-hold divers expected to swim optimally to conserve oxygen, does not agree with recent theoretical predictions for optimal swimming. Seabirds that use their wings for both swimming and flying stroked at a lower frequency than other swimming specialists of the same size, suggesting a morphological trade-off with wing size and stroke frequency representing a compromise. In contrast, foot-propelled diving birds such as shags had similar stroke frequencies as other swimming specialists. These results suggest that muscle characteristics may constrain swimming during cruising travel, with convergence among diving specialists in the proportions and contraction rates of propulsive muscles.

Kooyman, GL, Ainley DG, Ballard G, Ponganis PJ.  2007.  Effects of giant icebergs on two emperor penguin colonies in the Ross Sea, Antarctica. Antarctic Science. 19:31-38.   10.1017/s0954102007000065   AbstractWebsite

The arrival in January 2001 in the south-west Ross Sea of two giant icebergs, C16 and Bl5A, subsequently had dramatic affects on two emperor penguin colonies. B15A collided with the north-west tongue of the Ross Ice Shelf at Cape Crozier, Ross Island, in the following months and destroyed the penguins' nesting habitat. The colony totally failed in 2001, and years after, with the icebergs still in place, exhibited reduced production that ranged from 0 to 40% of the 1201 chicks produced in 2000. At Beaufort Island, 70 km NW of Crozier, chick production declined to 6% of the 2000 count by 2004. Collisions with the Ross Ice Shelf at Cape Crozier caused incubating adults to be crushed, trapped in ravines, or to abandon the colony and, since 2001, to occupy poorer habitat. The icebergs separated Beaufort Island from the Ross Sea Polynya, formerly an easy route to feeding and wintering areas. This episode has provided a glimpse of events which have probably occurred infrequently since the West Antarctic Ice Sheet began to retreat 12 000 years ago. The results allow assessment of recovery rates for one colony decimated by both adult and chick mortality, and the other colony by adult abandonment and chick mortality.

Barber-Meyer, SM, Kooyman GL, Ponganis PJ.  2007.  Estimating the relative abundance of emperor penguins at inaccessible colonies using satellite imagery. Polar Biology. 30:1565-1570.   10.1007/s00300-007-0317-8   AbstractWebsite

Emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) populations are useful environmental indicators due to the bird's extreme reliance on sea ice. We used remote sensing technology to estimate relative adult bird abundance at two inaccessible emperor penguin colonies in the Ross Sea, Antarctica. We performed supervised classification of 12 panchromatic satellite images of the seven known Ross Sea colonies. We used regression to predict adult bird counts at the inaccessible colonies by relating the number of pixels classified as "penguin" in the satellite images of the accessible colonies to corresponding known adult bird counts from aerial photographs or ground counts. While our analysis was hampered by excessive guano and shadows, we used satellite imagery to differentiate between relatively small (< 3,000 adult birds) and larger colonies (> 5,000 adult birds). Remote sensing technology is logistically less intense and less costly than aerial or ground censuses when the objective is to document penguin presence and/or large emperor penguin population changes (e.g., catastrophic changes). Improvements expected soon in the resolution of the satellite images should allow for more accurate abundance estimates.

2008
Barber-Meyer, SM, Kooyman GL, Ponganis PJ.  2008.  Trends in western Ross Sea emperor penguin chick abundances and their relationships to climate. Antarctic Science. 20:3-11.   10.1017/s0954102007000673   AbstractWebsite

The emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) is extremely dependent on the extent and stability of sea ice, which may make the species particularly susceptible to environmental change. In order to appraise the stability of the emperor penguin populations at six colonies in the western Ross Sea, we used linear regression analysis to evaluate chick abundance trends (1983-2005) and Pearson's r correlation to assess their relation to two local and two large-scale climate variables. We detected only one significant abundance trend; the Cape Roget colony increased from 1983 to 1996 (n = 6). Higher coefficients of variation in chick abundances at smaller colonies (Cape Crozier, Beaufort Island, Franklin Island) suggest that such colonies occupy marginal habitat, and are more susceptible to environmental change. We determined chick abundance to be most often correlated with local Ross Sea climate variables (sea ice extent and sea surface temperature), but not in consistent patterns across the colonies. We propose that chick abundance is most impacted by fine scale sea ice extent and local weather events, which are best evaluated by on-site assessments. We did not find sufficient evidence to reject the hypothesis that the overall emperor penguin population in the Ross Sea was stable during this period.

Ponganis, PJ, Kreutzer U, Stockard TK, Lin PC, Sailasuta N, Tran TK, Hurd R, Jue T.  2008.  Blood flow and metabolic regulation in seal muscle during apnea. Journal of Experimental Biology. 211:3323-3332.   10.1242/jeb.018887   AbstractWebsite

In order to examine myoglobin (Mb) function and metabolic responses of seal muscle during progressive ischemia and hypoxemia, Mb saturation and high-energy phosphate levels were monitored with NMR spectroscopy during sleep apnea in elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris). Muscle blood flow (MBF) was measured with laser-Doppler flowmetry (LDF). During six, spontaneous, 8-12 min apneas of an unrestrained juvenile seal, apneic MBF decreased to 46 +/- 10% of the mean eupneic MBF. By the end of apnea, MBF reached 31 +/- 8% of the eupneic value. The t(1/2) for 90% decline in apneic MBF was 1.9 +/- 1.2 min. The initial post-apneic peak in MBF occurred within 0.20 +/- 0.04 min after the start of eupnea. NMR measurements revealed that Mb desaturated rapidly from its eupenic resting level to a lower steady state value within 4 min after the onset of apnea at rates between 1.7 +/- 1.0 and 3.8 +/- 1.5% min(-1), which corresponded to a muscle O(2) depletion rate of 1-2.3 ml O(2)kg(-1) min(-1). High-energy phosphate levels did not change with apnea. During the transition from apnea to eupnea, Mb resaturated to 95% of its resting level within the first minute. Despite the high Mb concentration in seal muscle, experiments detected Mb diffusing with a translational diffusion coefficient of 4.5 x 10(-7) cm(2) s(-1), consistent with the value observed in rat myocardium. Equipoise P(O2) analysis revealed that Mb is the predominant intracellular O(2) transporter in elephant seals during eupnea and apnea.

2010
Blight, LK, Ainley DG, Ackley SF, Ballard G, Ballerini T, Brownell RL, Cheng CHC, Chiantore M, Costa D, Coulter MC, Dayton P, Devries AL, Dunbar R, Earle S, Eastman JT, Emslie SD, Evans CW, Garrott RA, Kim S, Kooyman G, Lescroel A, Lizotte M, Massaro M, Olmastroni S, Ponganis PJ, Russell J, Siniff DB, Smith WO, Stewart BS, Stirling I, Willis J, Wilson P, Woehler EJ.  2010.  Fishing for data in the Ross Sea. Science. 330:1316-1316.   10.1126/science.330.6009.1316   AbstractWebsite
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2011
Sato, K, Shiomi K, Marshall G, Kooyman GL, Ponganis PJ.  2011.  Stroke rates and diving air volumes of emperor penguins: implications for dive performance. Journal of Experimental Biology. 214:2854-2863.   10.1242/jeb.055723   AbstractWebsite

Emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri), both at sea and at an experimental dive hole, often have minimal surface periods even after performance of dives far beyond their measured 5.6 min aerobic dive limit (ADL: dive duration associated with the onset of post-dive blood lactate accumulation). Accelerometer-based data loggers were attached to emperor penguins diving in these two different situations to further evaluate the capacity of these birds to perform such dives without any apparent prolonged recovery periods. Minimum surface intervals for dives as long as 10 min were less than 1 min at both sites. Stroke rates for dives at sea were significantly greater than those for dives at the isolated dive hole. Calculated diving air volumes at sea were variable, increased with maximum depth of dive to a depth of 250 m, and decreased for deeper dives. It is hypothesized that lower air volumes for the deepest dives are the result of exhalation of air underwater. Mean maximal air volumes for deep dives at sea were approximately 83% greater than those during shallow (<50 m) dives. We conclude that (a) dives beyond the 5.6. min ADL do not always require prolongation of surface intervals in emperor penguins, (b) stroke rate at sea is greater than at the isolated dive hole and, therefore, a reduction in muscle stroke rate does not extend the duration of aerobic metabolism during dives at sea, and (c) a larger diving air volume facilitates performance of deep dives by increasing the total body O(2) store to 68 ml O(2) kg(-1). Although increased O(2) storage and cardiovascular adjustments presumably optimize aerobic metabolism during dives, enhanced anaerobic capacity and hypoxemic tolerance are also essential for longer dives. This was exemplified by a 27.6 min dive, after which the bird required 6 min before it stood up from a prone position, another 20 min before it began to walk, and 8.4 h before it dived again.

2013
Meir, JU, Robinson PW, Vilchis LI, Kooyman GL, Costa DP, Ponganis PJ.  2013.  Blood oxygen depletion is independent of dive function in a deep diving vertebrate, the northern elephant seal. Plos One. 8   10.1371/journal.pone.0083248   AbstractWebsite

Although energetics is fundamental to animal ecology, traditional methods of determining metabolic rate are neither direct nor instantaneous. Recently, continuous blood oxygen (O-2) measurements were used to assess energy expenditure in diving elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris), demonstrating that an exceptional hypoxemic tolerance and exquisite management of blood O-2 stores underlie the extraordinary diving capability of this consummate diver. As the detailed relationship of energy expenditure and dive behavior remains unknown, we integrated behavior, ecology, and physiology to characterize the costs of different types of dives of elephant seals. Elephant seal dive profiles were analyzed and O-2 utilization was classified according to dive type (overall function of dive: transit, foraging, food processing/rest). This is the first account linking behavior at this level with in vivo blood O-2 measurements in an animal freely diving at sea, allowing us to assess patterns of O-2 utilization and energy expenditure between various behaviors and activities in an animal in the wild. In routine dives of elephant seals, the blood O-2 store was significantly depleted to a similar range irrespective of dive function, suggesting that all dive types have equal costs in terms of blood O-2 depletion. Here, we present the first physiological evidence that all dive types have similarly high blood O-2 demands, supporting an energy balance strategy achieved by devoting one major task to a given dive, thereby separating dive functions into distinct dive types. This strategy may optimize O-2 store utilization and recovery, consequently maximizing time underwater and allowing these animals to take full advantage of their underwater resources. This approach may be important to optimizing energy expenditure throughout a dive bout or at-sea foraging trip and is well suited to the lifestyle of an elephant seal, which spends >90% of its time at sea submerged making diving its most "natural" state.

2014
Kooyman, GL, Ponganis PJ.  2014.  Chick production at the largest emperor penguin colony decreases by 50% from 2008-10. Antarctic Science. 26:33-37.   10.1017/s0954102013000515   AbstractWebsite

The emperor penguin colony at Coulman Island is reputedly the largest known. This reputation is based on intermittent ground and aerial surveys performed since 1958. From an aerial survey obtained on 28 October 2010 we discovered that the total number of chicks was 56% of the lowest previous estimate of 2006 and only 41% of the most recent estimate in 2008. All of the counts tallied since 1983 were determined either by ground counts or from aerial film or digital photographs, or estimates from adult counts. We also determined the sea ice conditions in autumn, which is close to the time the adults arrive to breed. We present three hypotheses of what might have happened from 2008-10 to cause the step change in chick production, the small recovery of chick numbers in 2011, and the complete recovery of number of adults from 2010-11. We conclude that local circumstances may have strongly influenced the breeding behaviour of the emperor penguins in 2010 and to a lesser degree in 2011 when many adults elected not to breed.

2017
Kooyman, GL, Ponganis PJ.  2017.  Rise and fall of Ross Sea emperor penguin colony populations: 2000 to 2012. Antarctic Science. 29:201-208.   10.1017/s0954102016000559   AbstractWebsite

There are seven emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) colonies distributed throughout the traditional boundaries of the Ross Sea from Cape Roget to Cape Colbeck. This coastline is c. 10% of the entire coast of Antarctica. From 2000 to 2012, there has been a nearly continuous record of population size of most, and sometimes all, of these colonies. Data were obtained by analysing aerial photographs. We found large annual variations in populations of individual colonies, and conclude that a trend from a single emperor penguin colony may not be a good environmental sentinel. There are at least four possibilities for census count fluctuations: i) this species is not bound to a nesting site like other penguins, and birds move within the colony and possibly to other colonies, ii) harsh environmental conditions cause a die-off of chicks in the colony or of adults elsewhere, iii) the adults skip a year of breeding if pre-breeding foraging is inadequate and iv) if sea ice conditions are unsatisfactory at autumn arrival of the adults, they skip breeding or go elsewhere. Such variability indicates that birds at all Ross Sea colonies should be counted annually if there is to be any possibility of understanding the causes of population changes.