The effect of depth on the diving behaviour of common eiders

M Guillemette, Anthony Woakes, V Henaux, JM Grandbois, Patrick Butler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Citations (Scopus)


Diving in endotherms is largely constrained by the depth of the foraging area, as they withstand long periods without breathing. Foraging theory predicts that all phases of a dive cycle, including travel, bottom, and surface durations, are positively correlated with depth. With continued increase in depth, bottom duration should level off and then decline. We tested these qualitative predictions with common eiders (Somateria mollissima (L., 1758)), a sea duck foraging routinely on the bottom. Using data loggers implanted in the body cavity of four females for I year, we showed that average diving depth over the summer and winter was distinct for each female. When averaged for each female, the data were qualitatively similar to theoretical predictions since travel, bottom, and surface durations all increased with depth. However, within individual females, the data only supported the theory partially because some relationships between depth and phases of a dive cycle were not significant. In particular, bottom duration failed to increase with depth for two individual females during the summer. In addition, significant relationships differed substantially among individual females and even within individual females when summer and winter seasons were compared. We suggest that the large variation observed in the diving behaviour of female ciders reflects individual female diving capability, which is probably related to their physiological states.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1818-1826
Number of pages9
JournalCanadian Journal of Zoology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2004


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