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Effects of feeding and habitat on resting metabolic rates of the Pacific walrus

August 31, 2023

Arctic marine mammals live in a rapidly changing environment due to the amplified effects of global warming. Pacific walruses (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) have responded to declines in Arctic sea-ice extent by increasingly hauling out on land farther from their benthic foraging habitat. Energy models can be useful for better understanding the potential implications of changes in behavior on body condition and reproduction but require behavior-specific metabolic rates. Here we measured the resting metabolic rates (RMR) of three captive, adult female Pacific walruses through breath-by-breath respirometry when fed and fasted resting out of water (sitting and lying down) and while fed resting in water. RMR in and out of water were positively related with pretrial energy intake when not fasted and 25% higher than RMR when walruses were fasted and out of water. Overall, RMR was higher than previously estimated for this species. Fasting RMR out of water was only 25% lower than subsurface swimming metabolic rates suggestive of relatively efficient swimming in adult females. Our results identify the importance of considering feeding status and species-specific differences in affecting metabolic costs. Further research is needed to better understand potential energetic costs of thermoregulation at temperatures experienced by wild walruses.

Publication Year 2024
Title Effects of feeding and habitat on resting metabolic rates of the Pacific walrus
DOI 10.1111/mms.13065
Authors Karyn D. Rode, Joan Rocabert, Alicia Borque-Espinosa, Diana Ferrero-Fernández, Andreas Fahlman
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Marine Mammal Science
Index ID 70248018
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Ecosystems