Marine Mammal Research Newsletter

MARINE MAMMAL RESEARCH NEWSLETTER   |  November 2016 (Issue 15)

THIS JUST IN:
8 new publications…

Flipper strokes predict energy expenditure in fur seals; Biologging tags; depredation by marine mammals, microparticles in Steller sea lions; bowhead whales and seismic operations; DNA metabarcoding; video-validated foraging success; protozoal-related mortalities in monk seals


2016
 
Flipper strokes can predict energy expenditure and locomotion costs in free-ranging northern and Antarctic fur seals.
Jeanniard du Dot, T., A.W. Trites J.P.Y. Arnould, and C. Guinet. 2016.
Scientific Reports. 6:33912
abstract
Flipper strokes have been proposed as proxies to estimate the energy expended by marine vertebrates while foraging at sea, but this has not been validated on free-ranging otariids (fur seals and sea lions). Our goal was to investigate how well flipper strokes correlate with energy expenditure in 33 foraging northern and Antarctic fur seals equipped with accelerometers, GPS, and time-depth recorders. We concomitantly measured field metabolic rates with the doubly-labeled water method and derived activity-specific energy expenditures using fine-scale time-activity budgets for each seal. Flipper strokes were detected while diving or surface transiting using dynamic acceleration. Despite some inter-species differences in flipper stroke dynamics or frequencies, both species of fur seals spent 3.79 ± 0.39 J/kg per stroke and had a cost of transport of ~1.6-1.9 J/kg/m while diving. Also, flipper stroke counts were good predictors of energy spent while diving (R2 = 0.76) and to a lesser extent while transiting (R2 = 0.63). However, flipper stroke count was a poor predictor overall of total energy spent during a full foraging trip (R2 = 0.50). Amplitude of flipper strokes (i.e., acceleration amplitude x number of strokes) predicted total energy expenditure (R2 = 0.63) better than flipper stroke counts, but was not as accurate as other acceleration-based proxies, i.e. Overall Dynamic Body Acceleration.

keywords     accelerometer, energy expenditure, field metabolic rate, doubly-labelled-water, flipper strokes, cost of transport, ODBA, VeDBA, northern fur seal, Antarctic fur seal
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2016
 
Averaged propulsive body acceleration (APBA) can be calculated from biologging tags that incorporate gyroscopes and accelerometers to estimate swimming speed, hydrodynamic drag and energy expenditure for Steller sea lions.
Ware, C., A. W. Trites, D. A. S. Rosen and J. Potvin. 2016.
PLoS ONE 11(6): e0157326
abstract
Forces due to propulsion should approximate forces due to hydrodynamic drag for animals horizontally swimming at a constant speed with negligible buoyancy forces. Propulsive forces should also correlate with energy expenditures associated with locomotion預n important cost of foraging. As such, biologging tags containing accelerometers are being used to generate proxies for animal energy expenditures despite being unable to distinguish rotational movements from linear movements. However, recent miniaturizations of gyroscopes offer the possibility of resolving this shortcoming and obtaining better estimates of body accelerations of swimming animals. We derived accelerations using gyroscope data for swimming Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus), and determined how well the measured accelerations correlated with actual swimming speeds and with theoretical drag. We also compared dive averaged dynamic body acceleration estimates that incorporate gyroscope data, with the widely used Overa ll Dynamic Body Acceleration (ODBA) metric, which does not use gyroscope data. Four Steller sea lions equipped with biologging tags were trained to swim alongside a boat cruising at steady speeds in the range of 4 to 10 kph. At each speed, and for each dive, we computed a measure called Gyro-Informed Dynamic Acceleration (GIDA) using a method incorporating gyroscope data with accelerometer data. We derived a new metric輸veraged Propulsive Body Acceleration (APBA), which is the average gain in speed per flipper stroke divided by mean stroke cycle duration. Our results show that the gyro-based measure (APBA) is a better predictor of speed than ODBA. We also found that APBA can estimate average thrust production during a single stroke-glide cycle, and can be used to estimate energy expended during swimming. The gyroscope-derived methods we describe should be generally applicable in swimming animals where propulsive accelerations can be clearly identified in the signal預nd they should also prove useful for dead-reckoning and improving estimates of energy expenditures from locomotion.

keywords     biologging, ODBA, accelerometer, gyroscope, swimming, speed, energy expenditure, drag, stroke
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2016
 
One-two punches to eliminate depredation by marine mammals on fish caught or raised for human consumption.
Trites, A. W. and J. Spitz. 2016.
Animal Conservation 19:222-224.
abstract
The ultimate solution to protecting fish farms and fishing gear from marine mammals is not yet at hand - and there is unlikely to be a one-size-fits-all solution. Protecting fish raised in open-ocean meshed pens will likely prove to be a two-stepped process that begins with using physical barriers around pens to prevent predators from obtaining the fish (such as predator exclusion nets) - and turning to sound (such as acoustic deterrence) as the second step to quickly push back any individuals that breach the protective perimeter. Some capture fisheries may be able to protect their catches using barriers (such as traps instead of hooks) or using smart fishing techniques (such as shorter soak times, or modified hauling techniques), while others might find electrified nets and acoustic deterrence are effective in scaring predators in the short-term. Unfortunately, all technologically-based deterrence methods are likely to fail in the long-term as animals adapt to prolonged stimulus and find the rewards they receive to be greater than the price they pay to obtain them. New technologies often also equate to new problems and conflicts - it is just that no one knows yet what they are until the technology has been fully implemented. Thus, simple (but perhaps initially expensive) options that prevent predators from seeing or accessing the fish intended for human consumption are likely to be the most successful, while the technologically based solutions are likely to be most successful when used sparingly. Using one-two punch solutions that combine the two methods would seem to have the greatest likelihood of successfully reducing or removing conflicts between fisheries and marine mammals. They may also ultimately yield the peace of mind that society and those whose livelihoods depend on harvesting marine species seek to ensure t hat humans can co-exist with marine mammals with minimal conflict.

keywords     depredation, marine mammals, fisheries, fish farms, acoustic deterrence, harbor seal, harbor porpoise
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2016
 
Dive, food, and exercise effects on blood microparticles in Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus): exploring a biomarker for decompression sickness.
Fahlman, A., M.J. Moore, A.W. Trites, D.A. Rosen, M. Haulena, N. Waller, T. Neale, M. Yang and S.R. Thom. 2016.
American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology 310:R596-R601.
abstract
Recent studies of stranded marine mammals indicate that exposure to underwater military sonar may induce pathophysiological responses consistent with decompression sickness (DCS). However, DCS has been difficult to diagnose in marine mammals. We investigated whether blood microparticles (MPs, measured as number/l plasma), which increase in response to decompression stress in terrestrial mammals, are a suitable biomarker for DCS in marine mammals. We obtained blood samples from trained Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus, 4 adult females) wearing time-depth recorders that dove to predetermined depths (either 5 or 50 meters). We hypothesized that MPs would be positively related to decompression stress (depth and duration underwater). We also tested the effect of feeding and exercise in isolation on MPs using the same blood sampling protocol. We found that feeding and exercise had no effect on blood MP levels, but that diving caused MPs to increase. However, blood MP levels did not correlate with diving depth, relative time underwater, and presumed decompression stress, possibly indicating acclimation following repeated exposure to depth.
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2016
 
Behavioral responses affect distribution analyses of bowhead whales in the vicinity of seismic operations.
Robertson, F.C., W.R. Koski and A.W. Trites. 2016.
Mar Ecol Prog Ser 549:243-262.
abstract
Aerial surveys are sometimes used to assess the densities of wide-ranging whales, as well as changes in their distributions in response to human activity. Such surveys also provide data used to estimate numbers of animals exposed to different received levels of seismic sound, as required by regulators. However, estimates of abundance are often biased because they fail to account for the effects of seismic operations on the surfacing and diving behavior of whales. Our objective was to determine the extent to which analyses of the distribution of bowhead whales Balaena mysticetus are affected by changes in visual 'availability' caused by seismic operations. We used aerial survey data collected during seismic operations in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea from late August to early October 2008 and fit spatial density surface models to bowhead sighting data to predict whale density in an ensonified area. We also incorporated availability correction factors to determine the sensitivity of density estimates to changes in surfacing and diving behavior caused by seismic operations. The influence of altered whale behavior was then evaluated by comparing a series of realistic simulated scenarios in which models incorporated undisturbed or seismic disturbance-related correction factors. Results suggest that the numbers of bowhead whales present in the vicinity of seismic operations during the bowhead autumn migration are underestimated if the behavioral effects of seismic operations on whales are ignored. Our study highlights the importance of accounting for changes in whale behavior that can affect sightability when estimating numbers and distribution of whales in the vicinity of industrial activity.

keywords     Bowhead whale, Seismic survey, Distance sampling, Beaufort Sea, Availability, g(0), Alaska, Spatial models, Behavior, Generalized additive model
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2016
 
Quantitative DNA metabarcoding: improved estimates of species proportional biomass using correction factors derived from control material.
Thomas, A. C., B. E. Deagle, P. J. Eveson, C. H. Harsch and A. W. Trites. 2016.
Molecular Ecology Resources 16:714-726.
abstract
DNA metabarcoding is a powerful new tool allowing characterization of species assemblages using high-throughput amplicon sequencing. The utility of DNA metabarcoding for quantifying relative species abundances is currently limited by both biological and technical biases which influence sequence read counts. We tested the idea of sequencing 50/50 mixtures of target species and a control species in order to generate relative correction factors (RCFs) that account for multiple sources of bias and are applicable to field studies. RCFs will be most effective if they are not affected by input mass ratio or co-occurring species. In a model experiment involving three target fish species and a fixed control, we found RCFs did vary with input ratio but in a consistent fashion, and that 50/50 RCFs applied to DNA sequence counts from various mixtures of the target species still greatly improved relative abundance estimates (e.g., average per species error of 19 ± 8% for uncorrected versu s 3 ± 1% for corrected estimates). To demonstrate the use of correction factors in a field setting, we calculated 50/50 RCFs for 18 harbour seal (Phoca vitulina) prey species (RCFs ranging from 0.68 to 3.68). Applying these corrections to field-collected seal scats affected species percentages from individual samples (Δ 6.7 ± 6.6%) more than population level species estimates (Δ 1.7 ± 1.2%). Our results indicate that the 50/50 RCF approach is an effective tool for evaluating and correcting biases in DNA metabarcoding studies. The decision to apply correction factors will be influenced by the feasibility of creating tissue mixtures for the target species, and the level of accuracy needed to meet research objectives.

keywords     DNA metabarcoding, high-throughput amplicon sequencing, harbor seal, Phoca vitulina, diets, prey consumption, diet reconstruction, scats, fecal samples
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2016
 
Dive characteristics can predict foraging success in Australian fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus) as validated by animal-borne video.
Volpov, B.L.V., D.A.S. Rosen, A.J. Hoskins, H.J. Lourie, N. Dorville, A.M.M. Baylis, K.W. Wheatley, G. Marshall, K. Abernathy, J. Semmens, M.A. Hindell and J.P.Y. Arnould. 2016.
Biology Open 5:262-271.
abstract
Dive characteristics and dive shape are often used to infer foraging success in pinnipeds. However, these inferences have not been directly validated in the field with video, and it remains unclear if this method can be applied to benthic foraging animals. This study assessed the ability of dive characteristics from time-depth recorders (TDR) to predict attempted prey capture events (APC) that were directly observed on animal-borne video in Australian fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus, n=11). The most parsimonious model predicting the probability of a dive with ≥1 APC on video included only descent rate as a predictor variable. The majority (94%) of the 389 total APC were successful, and the majority of the dives (68%) contained at least one successful APC. The best model predicting these successful dives included descent rate as a predictor. Comparisons of the TDR model predictions to video yielded a maximum accuracy of 77.5% in classifying dives as either APC or non-APC or 77.1% in classifying dives as successful verses unsuccessful. Foraging intensity, measured as either total APC per dive or total successful APC per dive, was best predicted by bottom duration and ascent rate. The accuracy in predicting total APC per dive varied based on the number of APC per dive with maximum accuracy occurring at 1 APC for both total (54%) and only successful APC (52%). Results from this study linking verified foraging dives to dive characteristics potentially opens the door to decades of historical TDR datasets across several otariid species.

keywords     Crittercam, Foraging behaviour, Animal-borne video, Dive profile analysis
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2016
 
Protozoal-related mortalities in endangered Hawaiian monk seals Neomonachus schauinslandi.
Barbieri, M. M., L. Kashinsky, D. S. Rotstein, K. M. Colegrove, K. H. Haman, S. L. Magargal, A. R. Sweeny, A. C. Kaufman, M. E. Grigg and C. L. Littnan. 2016.
Diseases of Aquatic Organisms 121:85-95.
abstract
Protozoal infections have been widely documented in marine mammals and may cause morbidity and mortality at levels that result in population level effects. The presence and potential impact on the recovery of endangered Hawaiian monk seals Neomonachus schauinslandi by protozoal pathogens was first identified in the carcass of a stranded adult male with disseminated toxoplasmosis and a captive monk seal with hepatitis. We report 7 additional cases and 2 suspect cases of protozoal-related mortality in Hawaiian monk seals between 2001 and 2015, including the first record of vertical transmission in this species. This study establishes case definitions for classification of protozoal infections in Hawaiian monk seals. Histopathology and immunohistochemistry were the primary diagnostic modalities used to define cases, given that these analyses establish a direct link between disease and pathogen presence. Findings were supported by serology and molecular data when available. Tox oplasma gondii was the predominant apicomplexan parasite identified and was associated with 100% of mortalities (n = 8) and 50% of suspect cases (n = 2). Incidental identification of sarcocysts in the skeletal muscle without tissue inflammation occurred in 4 seals, including one co-infected with T. gondii. In 2015, 2 cases of toxo-plasmosis were identified ante-mortem and shared similar clinical findings, including hematological abnormalities and histopathology. Protozoal-related mortalities, specifically due to toxoplasmosis, are emerging as a threat to the recovery of this endangered pinniped and other native Hawaiian taxa. By establishing case definitions, this study provides a foundation for measuring the impact of these diseases on Hawaiian monk seals.

keywords     Protozoa, Mortality, Pathology, Immunohistochemistry, Toxoplasma gondii, Sarcocystis, Pinniped
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