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Shiomi, K, Sato K, Ponganis PJ.  2012.  Point of no return in diving emperor penguins: is the timing of the decision to return limited by the number of strokes? Journal of Experimental Biology. 215:135-140.   10.1242/jeb.064568   AbstractWebsite

At some point in a dive, breath-hold divers must decide to return to the surface to breathe. The issue of when to end a dive has been discussed intensively in terms of foraging ecology and behavioral physiology, using dive duration as a temporal parameter. Inevitably, however, a time lag exists between the decision of animals to start returning to the surface and the end of the dive, especially in deep dives. In the present study, we examined the decision time in emperor penguins under two different conditions: during foraging trips at sea and during dives at an artificial isolated dive hole. It was found that there was an upper limit for the decision-to-return time irrespective of dive depth in birds diving at sea. However, in a large proportion of dives at the isolated dive hole, the decision-to-return time exceeded the upper limit at sea. This difference between the decision times in dives at sea versus the isolated dive hole was accounted for by a difference in stroke rate. The stroke rates were much lower in dives at the isolated hole and were inversely correlated with the upper limit of decision times in individual birds. Unlike the decision time to start returning, the cumulative number of strokes at the decision time fell within a similar range in the two experiments. This finding suggests that the number of strokes, but not elapsed time, constrained the decision of emperor penguins to return to the surface. While the decision to return and to end a dive may be determined by a variety of ecological, behavioral and physiological factors, the upper limit to that decision time may be related to cumulative muscle workload.

Ponganis, PJ, Meir JU, Williams CL.  2010.  Oxygen store depletion and the aerobic dive limit in emperor penguins. Aquatic Biology. 8:237-245.   10.3354/ab00216   AbstractWebsite

The aerobic dive limit (ADL), dive duration associated with the onset of post-dive blood lactate elevation, has been widely used in the interpretation of diving physiology and diving behavior. However, its physiological basis is incompletely understood, and in most studies, ADLs are simply calculated with an O(2) store/O(2) consumption formula. To better understand the ADL, research has been conducted on emperor penguins diving at an isolated dive hole. This work has revealed that O(2) stores are greater than previously estimated, and that the rate of depletion of those O(2) stores appears to be regulated primarily through a diving bradycardia and the efficiency of swimming. Blood and respiratory O(2) stores are not depleted at the 5.6 min ADL determined by post-dive blood lactate measurements. It is hypothesized that muscle, isolated from the circulation during a dive, is the primary source of lactate accumulation. To predict this 5.6 min ADL for these shallow dives at the isolated dive hole with the classic O(2) store/O(2) consumption formula, an O(2) consumption rate of 2x the predicted metabolic rate of a penguin at rest is required. In contrast, if the formula is used to calculate an ADL that is defined as the time for all consumable O(2) stores to be depleted, then a 23.1 min dive, in which final venous partial pressure of oxygen (P(O2)) was 6 mm Hg (0.8 kPa), represents such a maximum limit and demonstrates that an O(2) consumption rate of about 0.5x the predicted rate of an emperor penguin at rest is required in the formula.

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, 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.