Two main techniques have dominated the field of ecological energetics, the heart-rate and doubly labelled water methods. Although well established, they are not without their weaknesses, namely expense, intrusiveness and lack of temporal resolution. A new technique has been developed using accelerometers; it uses the Overall Dynamic Body Acceleration (ODBA) of an animal as a calibrated proxy for energy expenditure. This method provides high resolution data without the need for surgery. Significant relationships exist between rate of oxygen consumption (V̇o2) and ODBA in controlled conditions across a number of taxa; however, it is not known whether ODBA represents a robust proxy for energy expenditure consistently in all natural behaviours and there have been specific questions over its validity during diving, in diving endotherms. Here we simultaneously deployed accelerometers and heart rate loggers in a wild population of European shags (Phalacrocorax aristotelis). Existing calibration relationships were then used to make behaviour-specific estimates of energy expenditure for each of these two techniques. Compared against heart rate derived estimates the ODBA method predicts energy expenditure well during flight and diving behaviour, but overestimates the cost of resting behaviour. We then combine these two datasets to generate a new calibration relationship between ODBA and V̇o2 that accounts for this by being informed by heart rate derived estimates. Across behaviours we find a good relationship between ODBA and V̇o2. Within individual behaviours we find useable relationships between ODBA and V̇o2 for flight and resting, and a poor relationship during diving. The error associated with these new calibration relationships mostly originates from the previous heart rate calibration rather than the error associated with the ODBA method. The equations provide tools for understanding how energy constrains ecology across the complex behaviour of free-living diving birds.
- Received November 2, 2016.
- Accepted February 28, 2017.
- © 2017. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd
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