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Crossing the frontier: vertical transit rates of deep diving cormorants reveal depth zone of neutral buoyancy
Cook, T.R.; Bailleul, F.; Lescroël, A.; Tremblay, Y.; Bost, C.-A. (2008). Crossing the frontier: vertical transit rates of deep diving cormorants reveal depth zone of neutral buoyancy. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 154(2): 383-391.
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Cook, T.R.
  • Bailleul, F.
  • Lescroël, A.
  • Tremblay, Y.
  • Bost, C.-A.

    Knowing the depth zone of neutral buoyancy of divers is important because buoyancy can determine how animals manage their energy budget. In this study, we estimate the depth zone of neutral buoyancy of free-ranging cormorants for the first time, using time-depth recorders. We discovered that vertical ascent rates of 12 Crozet and 15 Kerguelen diving blue-eyed shags (respectively Phalacrocorax melanogenis and P. verrucosus) slowed down considerably at the 50–60 m depth zone. We suggest this was due to birds trying to reach the surface from that point upwards using reduced locomotor activity because the force of buoyancy becomes greater than the force of gravity at that depth. The results show a shift of this depth zone in relation to maximum targeted dive depth, suggesting cormorants may control buoyancy through respiratory air volume adjustment. Interestingly, 60 m is close to the maximum depth zone reached by these two species during dives lasting 4 min, their estimated behavioural aerobic dive limit. This suggests that the decision to swim deeper has a direct consequence on the energy budget, with time spent recovering at the surface (time thus lost to foraging) strongly increasing relative to the preceding time of submergence. Resources found in deeper waters must be of sufficient quantity or quality to justify crossing the frontier of physical neutral buoyancy.

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