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Watanabe, S, Sato K, Ponganis PJ.  2012.  Activity time budget during foraging trips of emperor penguins. Plos One. 7   10.1371/journal.pone.0050357   AbstractWebsite

We developed an automated method using depth and one axis of body acceleration data recorded by animal-borne data loggers to identify activities of penguins over long-term deployments. Using this technique, we evaluated the activity time budget of emperor penguins (n = 10) both in water and on sea ice during foraging trips in chick-rearing season. During the foraging trips, emperor penguins alternated dive bouts (4.8 +/- 4.5 h) and rest periods on sea ice (2.5 +/- 2.3 h). After recorder deployment and release near the colony, the birds spent 17.9 +/- 8.4% of their time traveling until they reached the ice edge. Once at the ice edge, they stayed there more than 4 hours before the first dive. After the first dive, the mean proportions of time spent on the ice and in water were 30.8 +/- 7.4% and 69.2 +/- 7.4%, respectively. When in the water, they spent 67.9 +/- 3.1% of time making dives deeper than 5 m. Dive activity had no typical diurnal pattern for individual birds. While in the water between dives, the birds had short resting periods (1.2 +/- 1.7 min) and periods of swimming at depths shallower than 5 m (0.25 +/- 0.38 min). When the birds were on the ice, they primarily used time for resting (90.3 +/- 4.1% of time) and spent only 9.7 +/- 4.1% of time traveling. Thus, it appears that, during foraging trips at sea, emperor penguins traveled during dives >5 m depth, and that sea ice was primarily used for resting. Sea ice probably provides refuge from natural predators such as leopard seals. We also suggest that 24 hours of sunlight and the cycling of dive bouts with short rest periods on sea ice allow emperor penguins to dive continuously throughout the day during foraging trips to sea.

Williams, CL, Meir JU, Ponganis PJ.  2011.  What triggers the aerobic dive limit? Patterns of muscle oxygen depletion during dives of emperor penguins Journal of Experimental Biology. 214:1802-1812.   10.1242/jeb.052233   AbstractWebsite

The physiological basis of the aerobic dive limit (ADL), the dive duration associated with the onset of post-dive blood lactate elevation, is hypothesized to be depletion of the muscle oxygen (O(2)) store. A dual wavelength near-infrared spectrophotometer was developed and used to measure myoglobin (Mb) O(2) saturation levels in the locomotory muscle during dives of emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri). Two distinct patterns of muscle O(2) depletion were observed. Type A dives had a monotonic decline, and, in dives near the ADL, the muscle O(2) store was almost completely depleted. This pattern of Mb desaturation was consistent with lack of muscle blood flow and supports the hypothesis that the onset of post-dive blood lactate accumulation is secondary to muscle O(2) depletion during dives. The mean type A Mb desaturation rate allowed for calculation of a mean muscle O(2) consumption of 12.4. ml O(2). kg(-1) muscle. min(-1), based on a Mb concentration of 6.4. g 100. g(-1) muscle. Type B desaturation patterns demonstrated a more gradual decline, often reaching a mid-dive plateau in Mb desaturation. This mid-dive plateau suggests maintenance of some muscle perfusion during these dives. At the end of type B dives, Mb desaturation rate increased and, in dives beyond the ADL, Mb saturation often reached near 0%. Thus, although different physiological strategies may be used during emperor penguin diving, both Mb desaturation patterns support the hypothesis that the onset of post-dive lactate accumulation is secondary to muscle O(2) store depletion.

Williams, CL, Sato K, Shiomi K, Ponganis PJ.  2012.  Muscle energy stores and stroke rates of emperor penguins: implications for muscle metabolism and dive performance. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology. 85:120-133.   10.1086/664698   AbstractWebsite

In diving birds and mammals, bradycardia and peripheral vasoconstriction potentially isolate muscle from the circulation. During complete ischemia, ATP production is dependent on the size of the myoglobin oxygen (O-2) store and the concentrations of phosphocreatine (PCr) and glycogen (Gly). Therefore, we measured PCr and Gly concentrations in the primary underwater locomotory muscle of emperor penguin and modeled the depletion of muscle O-2 and those energy stores under conditions of complete ischemia and a previously determined muscle metabolic rate. We also analyzed stroke rate to assess muscle workload variation during dives and evaluate potential limitations on the model. Measured PCr and Gly concentrations, 20.8 and 54.6 mmol kg(-1), respectively, were similar to published values for nondiving animals. The model demonstrated that PCr and Gly provide a large anaerobic energy store, even for dives longer than 20 min. Stroke rate varied throughout the dive profile, indicating muscle workload was not constant during dives as was assumed in the model. The stroke rate during the first 30 s of dives increased with increased dive depth. In extremely long dives, lower overall stroke rates were observed. Although O-2 consumption and energy store depletion may vary during dives, the model demonstrated that PCr and Gly, even at concentrations typical of terrestrial birds and mammals, are a significant anaerobic energy store and can play an important role in the emperor penguin's ability to perform long dives.

Wright, AK, Ponganis KV, McDonald BI, Ponganis PJ.  2014.  Heart rates of emperor penguins diving at sea: implications for oxygen store management. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 496:85-98.   10.3354/meps10592   AbstractWebsite

Heart rate (f(H)) contributes to control of blood oxygen (O-2) depletion through regulation of the magnitude of pulmonary gas exchange and of peripheral blood flow in diving vertebrates such as penguins. Therefore, we measured H during foraging trip dives of emperor penguins Aptenodytes forsteri equipped with digital electrocardiogram (ECG) recorders and time depth recorders (TDRs). Median dive f(H) (total heartbeats/duration, 64 beats min(-1)) was higher than resting H (56 beats min(-1)) and was negatively related to dive duration. Median dive f(H) in dives greater than the 5.6 min aerobic dive limit (ADL; dive duration associated with the onset of a net accumulation of lactic acid above resting levels) was significantly less than the median dive f(H) of dives less than the ADL (58 vs. 66 beats min(-1)). f(H) profile patterns differed between shallow (<50 m) and deep dives (>250 m), with values usually declining to levels near resting f(H) in shallow, short-duration dives, and to levels as low as 10 beats min(-1) during the deepest segments of deep dives. The total number of heartbeats in a dive was variable in shallow dives and consistently high in deep dives. A true bradycardia (f(H) below resting levels) during segments of 31% of shallow and deep dives of emperor penguins is consistent with reliance on myoglobin-bound O-2 stores for aerobic muscle metabolism that is especially accentuated during the severe bradycardias of deep dives. Although f(H) is low during the deepest segments of deep dives, the total number and distribution of heartbeats in deep, long dives suggest that pulmonary gas exchange and peripheral blood flow primarily occur at shallow depths.