Using accelerometers to develop time-energy budgets of wild fur seals from captive surrogates.
ABSTRACT: Background:Accurate time-energy budgets summarise an animal's energy expenditure in a given environment, and are potentially a sensitive indicator of how an animal responds to changing resources. Deriving accurate time-energy budgets requires an estimate of time spent in different activities and of the energetic cost of that activity. Bio-loggers (e.g., accelerometers) may provide a solution for monitoring animals such as fur seals that make long-duration foraging trips. Using low resolution to record behaviour may aid in the transmission of data, negating the need to recover the device. Methods:This study used controlled captive experiments and previous energetic research to derive time-energy budgets of juvenile Australian fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus) equipped with tri-axial accelerometers. First, captive fur seals and sea lions were equipped with accelerometers recording at high (20 Hz) and low (1 Hz) resolutions, and their behaviour recorded. Using this data, machine learning models were trained to recognise four states-foraging, grooming, travelling and resting. Next, the energetic cost of each behaviour, as a function of location (land or water), season and digestive state (pre- or post-prandial) was estimated. Then, diving and movement data were collected from nine wild juvenile fur seals wearing accelerometers recording at high- and low- resolutions. Models developed from captive seals were applied to accelerometry data from wild juvenile Australian fur seals and, finally, their time-energy budgets were reconstructed. Results:Behaviour classification models built with low resolution (1 Hz) data correctly classified captive seal behaviours with very high accuracy (up to 90%) and recorded without interruption. Therefore, time-energy budgets of wild fur seals were constructed with these data. The reconstructed time-energy budgets revealed that juvenile fur seals expended the same amount of energy as adults of similar species. No significant differences in daily energy expenditure (DEE) were found across sex or season (winter or summer), but fur seals rested more when their energy expenditure was expected to be higher. Juvenile fur seals used behavioural compensatory techniques to conserve energy during activities that were expected to have high energetic outputs (such as diving). Discussion:As low resolution accelerometry (1 Hz) was able to classify behaviour with very high accuracy, future studies may be able to transmit more data at a lower rate, reducing the need for tag recovery. Reconstructed time-energy budgets demonstrated that juvenile fur seals appear to expend the same amount of energy as their adult counterparts. Through pairing estimates of energy expenditure with behaviour this study demonstrates the potential to understand how fur seals expend energy, and where and how behavioural compensations are made to retain constant energy expenditure over a short (dive) and long (season) period.
Project description:Constructing activity budgets for marine animals when they are at sea and cannot be directly observed is challenging, but recent advances in bio-logging technology offer solutions to this problem. Accelerometers can potentially identify a wide range of behaviours for animals based on unique patterns of acceleration. However, when analysing data derived from accelerometers, there are many statistical techniques available which when applied to different data sets produce different classification accuracies. We investigated a selection of supervised machine learning methods for interpreting behavioural data from captive otariids (fur seals and sea lions). We conducted controlled experiments with 12 seals, where their behaviours were filmed while they were wearing 3-axis accelerometers. From video we identified 26 behaviours that could be grouped into one of four categories (foraging, resting, travelling and grooming) representing key behaviour states for wild seals. We used data from 10 seals to train four predictive classification models: stochastic gradient boosting (GBM), random forests, support vector machine using four different kernels and a baseline model: penalised logistic regression. We then took the best parameters from each model and cross-validated the results on the two seals unseen so far. We also investigated the influence of feature statistics (describing some characteristic of the seal), testing the models both with and without these. Cross-validation accuracies were lower than training accuracy, but the SVM with a polynomial kernel was still able to classify seal behaviour with high accuracy (>70%). Adding feature statistics improved accuracies across all models tested. Most categories of behaviour -resting, grooming and feeding-were all predicted with reasonable accuracy (52-81%) by the SVM while travelling was poorly categorised (31-41%). These results show that model selection is important when classifying behaviour and that by using animal characteristics we can strengthen the overall accuracy.
Project description:Time and energy are the two most important currencies in animal bioenergetics. How much time animals spend engaged in different activities with specific energetic costs ultimately defines their likelihood of surviving and successfully reproducing. However, it is extremely difficult to determine the energetic costs of independent activities for free-ranging animals. In this study, we developed a new method to calculate activity-specific metabolic rates, and applied it to female fur seals. We attached biologgers (that recorded GPS locations, depth profiles, and triaxial acceleration) to 12 northern (Callorhinus ursinus) and 13 Antarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus gazella), and used a hierarchical decision tree algorithm to determine time allocation between diving, transiting, resting, and performing slow movements at the surface (grooming, etc.). We concomitantly measured the total energy expenditure using the doubly-labelled water method. We used a general least-square model to establish the relationship between time-activity budgets and the total energy spent by each individual during their foraging trip to predict activity-specific metabolic rates. Results show that both species allocated similar time to diving (~29%), transiting to and from their foraging grounds (~26-30%), and resting (~8-11%). However, Antarctic fur seals spent significantly more time grooming and moving slowly at the surface than northern fur seals (36% vs. 29%). Diving was the most expensive activity (~30 MJ/day if done non-stop for 24 hr), followed by transiting at the surface (~21 MJ/day). Interestingly, metabolic rates were similar between species while on land or while slowly moving at the surface (~13 MJ/day). Overall, the average field metabolic rate was ~20 MJ/day (for all activities combined). The method we developed to calculate activity-specific metabolic rates can be applied to terrestrial and marine species to determine the energetic costs of daily activities, as well as to predict the energetic consequences for animals forced to change their time allocations in response to environmental shifts.
Project description:Parasites have profound fitness effects on their hosts, yet these are often sub-lethal, making them difficult to understand and quantify. A principal sub-lethal mechanism that reduces fitness is parasite-induced increase in energetic costs of specific behaviours, potentially resulting in changes to time and energy budgets. However, quantifying the influence of parasites on these costs has not been undertaken in free-living animals. We used accelerometers to estimate energy expenditure on flying, diving and resting, in relation to a natural gradient of endo-parasite loads in a wild population of European shags Phalacrocorax aristotelis We found that flight costs were 10% higher in adult females with higher parasite loads and these individuals spent 44% less time flying than females with lower parasite loads. There was no evidence for an effect of parasite load on daily energy expenditure, suggesting the existence of an energy ceiling, with the increase in cost of flight compensated for by a reduction in flight duration. These behaviour specific costs of parasitism will have knock-on effects on reproductive success, if constraints on foraging behaviour detrimentally affect provisioning of young. The findings emphasize the importance of natural parasite loads in shaping the ecology and life-history of their hosts, which can have significant population level consequences.
Project description:During their annual cycles, animals face a series of energetic challenges as they prioritise different life history events by engaging in temporally and potentially spatially segregated reproductive and non-breeding periods. Investigating behaviour and energy use across these periods is fundamental to understanding how animals survive the changing conditions associated with annual cycles. We estimated year-round activity budgets, energy expenditure, location, colony attendance and foraging behaviour for surviving individuals from a population of common guillemots Uria aalge. Despite the potential constraints of reduced day lengths and sea surface temperatures in winter, guillemots managed their energy expenditure throughout the year. Values were high prior to and during the breeding season, driven by a combination of high thermoregulatory costs, diving activity, colony attendance and associated flight. Guillemots also exhibited partial colony attendance outside the breeding season, likely supported by local resources. Additionally, there was a mismatch in the timing of peaks in dive effort and a peak in nocturnal foraging activity, indicating that guillemots adapted their foraging behaviour to the availability of prey rather than daylight. Our study identifies adaptations in foraging behaviour and flexibility in activity budgets as mechanisms that enable guillemots to manage their energy expenditure and survive the annual cycle.
Project description:During wild foraging, Australian fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus) encounter many different types of prey in a wide range of scenarios, yet in captive environments they are typically provided with a narrower range of opportunities to display their full repertoire of behaviours. This study aimed to quantitatively explore the effect of foraging-based enrichment on the behaviour and activity patterns displayed by two captive Australian fur seals at Melbourne Zoo, Australia. Food was presented as a scatter in open water, in a free-floating ball device, or in a static box device, with each treatment separated by control trials with no enrichment. Both subjects spent more time interacting with the ball and static box devices than the scatter feed. The total time spent pattern swimming was reduced in the enrichment treatments compared to the controls, while the time spent performing random swimming behaviours increased. There was also a significant increase in the total number of bouts of behaviour performed in all three enrichment treatments compared to controls. Each enrichment method also promoted a different suit of foraging behaviours. Hence, rather than choosing one method, the most effective way to increase the diversity of foraging behaviours, while also increasing variation in general activity patterns, is to provide seals with a wide range of foraging scenarios where food is encountered in different ways.
Project description:Measures of energy expenditure can be used to inform animal conservation and management, but methods for measuring the energy expenditure of free-ranging animals have a variety of limitations. Advancements in biologging technologies have enabled the use of dynamic body acceleration derived from accelerometers as a proxy for energy expenditure. Although dynamic body acceleration has been shown to strongly correlate with oxygen consumption in captive animals, it has been validated in only a few studies on free-ranging animals. Here, we use relationships between oxygen consumption and overall dynamic body acceleration in resting and walking polar bears Ursus maritimus and published values for the costs of swimming in polar bears to estimate the total energy expenditure of 6 free-ranging polar bears that were primarily using the sea ice of the Beaufort Sea. Energetic models based on accelerometry were compared to models of energy expenditure on the same individuals derived from doubly labeled water methods. Accelerometer-based estimates of energy expenditure on average predicted total energy expenditure to be 30% less than estimates derived from doubly labeled water. Nevertheless, accelerometer-based measures of energy expenditure strongly correlated (r 2 = 0.70) with measures derived from doubly labeled water. Our findings highlight the strengths and limitations in dynamic body acceleration as a measure of total energy expenditure while also further supporting its use as a proxy for instantaneous, detailed energy expenditure in free-ranging animals.
Project description:Streamlined flippers are often considered the defining feature of seals and sea lions, whose very name 'pinniped' comes from the Latin pinna and pedis, meaning 'fin-footed'. Yet not all pinniped limbs are alike. Whereas otariids (fur seals and sea lions) possess stiff streamlined forelimb flippers, phocine seals (northern true seals) have retained a webbed yet mobile paw bearing sharp claws. Here, we show that captive and wild phocines routinely use these claws to secure prey during processing, enabling seals to tear large fish by stretching them between their teeth and forelimbs. 'Hold and tear' processing relies on the primitive forelimb anatomy displayed by phocines, which is also found in the early fossil pinniped Enaliarctos. Phocine forelimb anatomy and behaviour therefore provide a glimpse into how the earliest seals likely fed, and indicate what behaviours may have assisted pinnipeds along their journey from terrestrial to aquatic feeding.
Project description:Quantifying metabolic rates and the factors that influence them is key to wildlife conservation efforts because anthropogenic activities and habitat alteration can disrupt energy balance, which is critical for reproduction and survival. We investigated the effect of diving behaviour, diet and season on field metabolic rates (FMR) and foraging success of lactating northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) from the Pribilof Islands during a period of population decline. Variation in at-sea FMR was in part explained by season and trip duration, with values that ranged from 5.18 to 9.68 W kg-1 (n?=?48). Fur seals experienced a 7.2% increase in at-sea FMR from summer to fall and a 1.9% decrease in at-sea FMR for each additional day spent at sea. There was no effect of foraging effort, dive depth or diet on at-sea FMR. Mass gains increased with trip duration and were greater in the fall compared with summer, but were unrelated to at-sea FMR, diving behaviour and diet. Seasonal increases in at-sea FMR may have been due to costs associated with the annual molt but did not appear to adversely impact the ability of females to gain mass on foraging trips. The overall high metabolic rates in conjunction with the lack of any diet-related effects on at-sea FMR suggests that northern fur seals may have reached a metabolic ceiling early in the population decline. This provides indirect evidence that food limitation may be contributing to the low pup growth rates observed in the Pribilof Islands, as a high metabolic overhead likely results in less available energy for lactation. The limited ability of female fur seals to cope with changes in prey availability through physiological mechanisms is particularly concerning given the recent and unprecedented environmental changes in the Bering Sea that are predicted to have ecosystem-level impacts.
Project description:Mechanistic models provide a powerful, minimally invasive tool for gaining a deeper understanding of the ecology of animals across geographic space and time. In this paper, we modified and validated the accuracy of the mechanistic model Niche Mapper for simulating heat exchanges of animals with counter-current heat exchange mechanisms in their legs and animals that wade in water. We then used Niche Mapper to explore the effects of wading and counter-current heat exchange on the energy expenditures of Whooping Cranes, a long-legged wading bird. We validated model accuracy against the energy expenditure of two captive Whooping Cranes measured using the doubly-labeled water method and time energy budgets. Energy expenditure values modeled by Niche Mapper were similar to values measured by the doubly-labeled water method and values estimated from time-energy budgets. Future studies will be able to use Niche Mapper as a non-invasive tool to explore energy-based limits to the fundamental niche of Whooping Cranes and apply this knowledge to management decisions. Basic questions about the importance of counter-current exchange and wading to animal physiological tolerances can also now be explored with the model.
Project description:This study investigated prey captures in free-ranging adult female Australian fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus) using head-mounted 3-axis accelerometers and animal-borne video cameras. Acceleration data was used to identify individual attempted prey captures (APC), and video data were used to independently verify APC and prey types. Results demonstrated that head-mounted accelerometers could detect individual APC but were unable to distinguish among prey types (fish, cephalopod, stingray) or between successful captures and unsuccessful capture attempts. Mean detection rate (true positive rate) on individual animals in the testing subset ranged from 67-100%, and mean detection on the testing subset averaged across 4 animals ranged from 82-97%. Mean False positive (FP) rate ranged from 15-67% individually in the testing subset, and 26-59% averaged across 4 animals. Surge and sway had significantly greater detection rates, but also conversely greater FP rates compared to heave. Video data also indicated that some head movements recorded by the accelerometers were unrelated to APC and that a peak in acceleration variance did not always equate to an individual prey item. The results of the present study indicate that head-mounted accelerometers provide a complementary tool for investigating foraging behaviour in pinnipeds, but that detection and FP correction factors need to be applied for reliable field application.