The remote measurement of data from free-ranging animals has been termed 'biologging' and in recent years this relatively small set of tools has been instrumental in addressing remarkably diverse questions--from 'how will tuna respond to climate change?' to 'why are whales big?'. While a single biologging dataset can have the potential to test hypotheses spanning physiology, ecology, evolution and theoretical physics, explicit illustrations of this flexibility are scarce and this has arguably hindered the full realization of the power of biologging tools. Here we present a small set of examples from studies that have collected data on two parameters widespread in biologging research (depth and acceleration), but that have interpreted their data in the context of extremely diverse phenomena: from tests of biomechanical and diving-optimality models to identifications of feeding events, Lévy flight foraging strategies and expanding oxygen minimum zones. We use these examples to highlight the remarkable flexibility of biologging tools, and identify several mechanisms that may enhance the scope and dissemination of future biologging research programs.
Understanding the response of any species to climate change can be challenging. However, in short-lived species the faster turnover of generations may facilitate the examination of responses associated with longer-term environmental change. Octopus tetricus, a commercially important species, has undergone a recent polewards range shift in the coastal waters of south-eastern Australia, thought to be associated with the southerly extension of the warm East Australian Current. At the cooler temperatures of a polewards distribution limit, growth of a species could be slower, potentially leading to a bigger body size and resulting in a slower population turnover, affecting population viability at the extreme of the distribution. Growth rates, body size, and life span of O. tetricus were examined at the leading edge of a polewards range shift in Tasmanian waters (40°S and 147°E) throughout 2011. Octopus tetricus had a relatively small body size and short lifespan of approximately 11 months that, despite cooler temperatures, would allow a high rate of population turnover and may facilitate the population increase necessary for successful establishment in the new extended area of the range. Temperature, food availability and gender appear to influence growth rate. Individuals that hatched during cooler and more productive conditions, but grew during warming conditions, exhibited faster growth rates and reached smaller body sizes than individuals that hatched into warmer waters but grew during cooling conditions. This study suggests that fast growth, small body size and associated rapid population turnover may facilitate the range shift of O. tetricus into Tasmanian waters.
Habitat characteristics greatly influence the patterns of distribution and abundance in scallops, providing structure for the settlement of spat and influencing predation risk and rates of survival. Establishing scallop-habitat relationships is relevant to understanding the ecological processes that regulate scallop populations and to managing critical habitats. This information is particularly relevant for the D'Entrecasteaux Channel, south-eastern Tasmania (147.335 W, 43.220 S), a region that has supported significant but highly variable scallop production over many years, including protracted periods of stock collapse. Three species of scallops are present in the region; the commercial scallop Pecten fumatus, the queen scallop Equichlamys bifrons, and the doughboy scallop Mimachlamys asperrima. We used dive surveys and Generalized Additive Modelling to examine the relationship between the distribution and abundance patterns of each species and associated habitat characteristics. The aggregated distribution of each species could be predicted as a function of sediment type and species-specific habitat structural components. While P. fumatus was strongly associated with finer sediments and E. bifrons with coarse grain sediments, M. asperrima had a less selective association, possibly related to its ability to attach on a wide range of substrates. Other habitat characteristics explaining P. fumatus abundance were depth, Asterias amurensis abundance, shell and macroalgae cover. Equichlamys bifrons was strongly associated with macroalgae and seagrass cover, whereas M. asperrima abundance was greatly explained by sponge cover. The models define a set of relationships from which plausible hypotheses can be developed. We propose that these relationships are mediated by predation pressure as well as the specific behavioural characteristics of each species. The findings also highlight the specific habitat characteristics that are relevant for spatial management and habitat restoration plans.
Activity rhythms are ubiquitous in nature, and generally synchronized with the day-night cycle. Several taxa have been shown to switch between nocturnal and diurnal activity in response to environmental variability, and these relatively uncommon switches provide a basis for greater understanding of the mechanisms and adaptive significance of circadian (approx. 24 h) rhythms. Plasticity of activity rhythms has been identified in association with a variety of factors, from changes in predation pressure to an altered nutritional or social status. Here, we report a switch in activity rhythm that is associated with rainfall. Outside periods of rain, the estuarine-associated teleost Acanthopagrus australis was most active and in shallower depths during the day, but this activity and depth pattern was reversed in the days following rain, with diurnality restored as estuarine conductivity and turbidity levels returned to pre-rain levels. Although representing the first example of a rain-induced reversal of activity rhythm in an aquatic animal of which we are aware, our results are consistent with established models on the trade-offs between predation risk and foraging efficiency.
While a suite of approaches have been developed to describe the scale, rate and spatial structure of exchange among populations, a lack of mechanistic understanding will invariably compromise predictions of population-level responses to ecosystem modification. In this study, we measured the energetics and sustained swimming capacity of giant Australian cuttlefish Sepia apama and combined these data with information on the life-history strategy, behaviour and circulation patterns experienced by the species to predict scales of connectivity throughout parts of their range. The swimming capacity of adult and juvenile S. apama was poor compared to most other cephalopods, with most individuals incapable of maintaining swimming above 15 cm s(-1). Our estimate of optimal swimming speed (6-7 cm s(-1)) and dispersal potential were consistent with the observed fine-scale population structure of the species. By comparing observed and predicted population connectivity, we identified several mechanisms that are likely to have driven fine-scale population structure in this species, which will assist in the interpretation of future population declines.
Elasmobranchs can detect minute electromagnetic fields, <1 nV cm(-1), using their ampullae of Lorenzini. Behavioural responses to electric fields have been investigated in various species, sometimes with the aim to develop shark deterrents to improve human safety. The present study tested the effects of the Shark Shield Freedom7™ electric deterrent on (1) the behaviour of 18 white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) near a static bait, and (2) the rates of attacks on a towed seal decoy. In the first experiment, 116 trials using a static bait were performed at the Neptune Islands, South Australia. The proportion of baits taken during static bait trials was not affected by the electric field. The electric field, however, increased the time it took them to consume the bait, the number of interactions per approach, and decreased the proportion of interactions within two metres of the field source. The effect of the electric field was not uniform across all sharks. In the second experiment, 189 tows using a seal decoy were conducted near Seal Island, South Africa. No breaches and only two surface interactions were observed during the tows when the electric field was activated, compared with 16 breaches and 27 surface interactions without the electric field. The present study suggests that the behavioural response of white sharks and the level of risk reduction resulting from the electric field is contextually specific, and depends on the motivational state of sharks.
Many aspects of octopus growth dynamics are poorly understood, particularly in relation to sub-adult or adult growth, muscle fibre dynamics and repro-somatic investment. The growth of 5 month old Octopus pallidus cultured in the laboratory was investigated under three temperature regimes over a 12 week period: seasonally increasing temperatures (14-18°C); seasonally decreasing temperatures (18-14°C); and a constant temperature mid-way between seasonal peaks (16°C). Differences in somatic growth at the whole-animal level, muscle tissue structure and rate of gonad development were investigated. Continuous exponential growth was observed, both at a group and at an individual level, and there was no detectable effect of temperature on whole-animal growth rate. Juvenile growth rate (from 1 to 156 days) was also monitored prior to the controlled experiment; exponential growth was observed, but at a significantly faster rate than in the older experimental animals, suggesting that O. pallidus exhibit a double-exponential two-phase growth pattern. There was considerable variability in size-at-age even between individuals growing under identical thermal regimes. Animals exposed to seasonally decreasing temperatures exhibited a higher rate of gonad development compared with animals exposed to increasing temperatures; however, this did not coincide with a detectable decline in somatic growth rate or mantle condition. The ongoing production of new mitochondria-poor and mitochondria-rich muscle fibres (hyperplasia) was observed, indicated by a decreased or stable mean muscle fibre diameter concurrent with an increase in whole-body size. Animals from both seasonal temperature regimes demonstrated higher rates of new mitochondria-rich fibre generation relative to those from the constant temperature regime, but this difference was not reflected in a difference in growth rate at the whole-body level. This is the first study to record ongoing hyperplasia in the muscle tissue of an octopus species, and provides further insight into the complex growth dynamics of octopus.
Many salmon populations in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans have experienced sharply decreasing returns and high ocean mortality in the past two decades, with some populations facing extirpation if current marine survival trends continue. Our inability to monitor the movements of marine fish or to directly measure their survival precludes experimental tests of theories concerning the factors regulating fish populations, and thus limits scientific advance in many aspects of fisheries management and conservation. Here we report a large-scale synthesis of survival and movement rates of free-ranging juvenile salmon across four species, 13 river watersheds, and 44 release groups of salmon smolts (>3,500 fish tagged in total) in rivers and coastal ocean waters, including an assessment of where mortality predominantly occurs during the juvenile migration. Of particular importance, our data indicate that, over the size range of smolts tagged, (i) smolt survival was not strongly related to size at release, (ii) tag burden did not appear to strongly reduce the survival of smaller animals, and (iii) for at least some populations, substantial mortality occurred much later in the migration and more distant from the river of origin than generally expected. Our findings thus have implications for determining where effort should be invested to improve the accuracy of salmon forecasting, to understand the mechanisms driving salmon declines, and to predict the impact of climate change on salmon stocks.
1. Estimating the metabolic rate of animals in nature is central to understanding the physiological, behavioural and evolutionary ecology of animals. Doubly labelled water and heart-rate methods are the most commonly used approaches, but both have limitations that preclude their application to some systems. 2. Accelerometry has emerged as a powerful tool for estimating energy expenditure in a range of animals, but is yet to be used to estimate field metabolic rate in aquatic taxa. We combined two-dimensional accelerometry and swim-tunnel respirometry to estimate patterns of energy expenditure in giant Australian cuttlefish Sepia apama during breeding. 3. Both oxygen consumption rate (Vo2) and swimming speed showed strong positive associations with body acceleration, with coefficients of determination comparable to those using similar accelerometers on terrestrial vertebrates. Despite increased activity during the day, field metabolic rate rarely approached Vo2, and night-time Vo2 was similar to that at rest. 4. These results are consistent with the life-history strategy of this species, which has a poor capacity to exercise anaerobically, and a mating strategy that is visually based. With the logistical difficulties associated with observation in aquatic environments, accelerometry is likely to prove a valuable tool for estimating energy expenditure in aquatic animals.
Information on the fine-scale movement of predators and their prey is important to interpret foraging behaviours and activity patterns. An understanding of these behaviours will help determine predator-prey relationships and their effects on community dynamics. For instance understanding a predators movement behaviour may alter pre determined expectations of prey behaviour, as almost any aspect of the preys decisions from foraging to mating can be influenced by the risk of predation. Acoustic telemetry was used to study the fine-scale movement patterns of the Broadnose Sevengill shark Notorynchus cepedianus and its main prey, the Gummy shark Mustelus antarcticus, in a coastal bay of southeast Tasmania. Notorynchus cepedianus displayed distinct diel differences in activity patterns. During the day they stayed close to the substrate (sea floor) and were frequently inactive. At night, however, their swimming behaviour continually oscillated through the water column from the substrate to near surface. In contrast, M. antarcticus remained close to the substrate for the entire diel cycle, and showed similar movement patterns for day and night. For both species, the possibility that movement is related to foraging behaviour is discussed. For M. antarcticus, movement may possibly be linked to a diet of predominantly slow benthic prey. On several occasions, N. cepedianus carried out a sequence of burst speed events (increased rates of movement) that could be related to chasing prey. All burst speed events during the day were across the substrate, while at night these occurred in the water column. Overall, diel differences in water column use, along with the presence of oscillatory behaviour and burst speed events suggest that N. cepedianus are nocturnal foragers, but may opportunistically attack prey they happen to encounter during the day.
Adult sex ratios (ASRs) and population size are two of the most fundamental parameters in population biology, as they are the main determinants of genetic and demographic viability, and vulnerability of a population to stochastic events. Underpinning the application of population viability analysis for predicting the extinction risk of populations is the need to accurately estimate parameters that determine the viability of populations (i.e. the ASR and population size). Here we demonstrate that a lack of temporal information can confound estimation of both parameters. Using acoustic telemetry, we compared differences in breeding durations of both sexes for a giant Australian cuttlefish Sepia apama breeding aggregation to the strongly male-biased operational sex ratio (4:1), in order to estimate the population ASR. The ratio of breeding durations between sexes was equal to the operational sex ratio, suggesting that the ASR is not strongly male-biased, but balanced. Furthermore, the short residence times of individuals at the breeding aggregation suggests that previous density-based abundance estimates have significantly underestimated population size. With the current wide application of population viability analysis for predicting the extinction risk of populations, tools to improve the accuracy of such predictions are vital. Here we provide a new approach to estimating the fundamental ASR parameter, and call for temporal considerations when estimating population size.
Octopus cyanea is taken as an unregulated, recreationally fished species from the intertidal reefs of Ningaloo, Western Australia. Yet despite its exploitation and importance in many artisanal fisheries throughout the world, little is known about its life history, ecology and vulnerability. We used stylet increment analysis to age a wild O. cyanea population for the first time and gonad histology to examine their reproductive characteristics. O. cyanea conforms to many cephalopod life history generalisations having rapid, non-asymptotic growth, a short life-span and high levels of mortality. Males were found to mature at much younger ages and sizes than females with reproductive activity concentrated in the spring and summer months. The female dominated sex-ratios in association with female brooding behaviours also suggest that larger conspicuous females may be more prone to capture and suggests that this intertidal octopus population has the potential to be negatively impacted in an unregulated fishery. Size at age and maturity comparisons between our temperate bordering population and lower latitude Tanzanian and Hawaiian populations indicated stark differences in growth rates that correlate with water temperatures. The variability in life history traits between global populations suggests that management of O. cyanea populations should be tailored to each unique set of life history characteristics and that stylet increment analysis may provide the integrity needed to accurately assess this.
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