An increase in minimum metabolic rate and not activity explains field metabolic rate changes in a breeding seabird
Green, JA and Aitken-Simpson, EJ and White, CR and Bunce, A and Butler, PJ and Frappell, PB, An increase in minimum metabolic rate and not activity explains field metabolic rate changes in a breeding seabird, Journal of Experimental Biology, 216, (9) pp. 1726-1735. ISSN 0022-0949 (2013) [Refereed Article]
The field metabolic rate (FMR) of a free-ranging animal can be considered as the sum of its maintenance costs (minimum metabolic rate; MMR), and additional costs associated with thermoregulation, digestion, production and activity. However, the relationships between these two quantities and how they relate to behaviour and extrinsic influences is not clear. In seabirds, FMR has been shown to increase during the breeding season. This is presumed to be the result of an increase in foraging activity, stimulated by increased food demands from growing chicks, but few studies have investigated in detail the factors that underlie these increases. We studied free-ranging Australasian gannets (Morus serrator) throughout their five-month breeding season, and evaluated FMR, MMR and activity-related metabolic costs on a daily basis using the heart-rate method. In addition we recorded behaviour (flying and diving) simultaneously in the same individuals. FMR increased steadily throughout the breeding season, increasing by 11% from the incubation period to the long chick-brooding period. However, this was not accompanied by either an increase in flying or diving behaviour, or an increase in the energetic costs of activity. Instead, the changes in FMR could be explained exclusively by a progressive increase in MMR. Seasonal changes in MMR could be due to a change in body composition or a decrease in body condition associated with changing allocation of resources between provisioning adults and growing chicks. Our study highlights the importance of measuring physiological parameters continuously in free-ranging animals in order to fully understand the mechanisms underpinning seasonal changes in physiology and behaviour.