How accurately can we estimate energetic costs in a marine top predator, the king penguin?

Lewis Halsey, A Fahlman, Y Handrich, A Schmidt, Anthony Woakes, Patrick Butler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Citations (Scopus)


King penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) are one of the greatest consumers of marine resources. However, while their influence on the marine ecosystem is likely to be significant, only an accurate knowledge of their energy demands will indicate their true food requirements. Energy consumption has been estimated for many marine species using the heart rate-rate of oxygen consumption (f(H) - V(O2)) technique, and the technique has been applied successfully to answer eco-physiological questions. However, previous studies on the energetics of king penguins, based on developing or applying this technique, have raised a number of issues about the degree of validity of the technique for this species. These include the predictive validity of the present f(H) - V(O2) equations across different seasons and individuals and during different modes of locomotion. In many cases, these issues also apply to other species for which the f(H) - V(O2) technique has been applied. In the present study, the accuracy of three prediction equations for king penguins was investigated based on validity studies and on estimates of V(O2) from published, field f(H) data. The major conclusions from the present study are: (1) in contrast to that for walking, the f(H) - V(O2) relationship for swimming king penguins is not affected by body mass; (2) prediction equation (1), log(V(O2) = -0.279 + 1.24log(f(H) + 0.0237t - 0.0157log(f(H)t, derived in a previous study, is the most suitable equation presently available for estimating V(O2) in king penguins for all locomotory and nutritional states. A number of possible problems associated with producing an f(H) - V(O2) relationship are discussed in the present study. Finally, a statistical method to include easy-to-measure morphometric characteristics, which may improve the accuracy of f(H) - V(O2) prediction equations, is explained.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-92
Number of pages12
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2007


  • energy demand
  • heart rate
  • marine resources
  • Aptenodytes patagonicus
  • oxygen consumption


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