Gait switches in deep-diving beaked whales : biomechanical strategies for long-duration dives
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Diving animals modulate their swimming gaits to promote locomotor efficiency and so enable longer, more productive dives. Beaked whales perform extremely long and deep foraging dives that probably exceed aerobic capacities for some species. Here, we use biomechanical data from suction-cup tags attached to three species of beaked whales (Mesoplodon densirostris, N = 10; Ziphius cavirostris, N = 9; and Hyperoodon ampullatus, N = 2) to characterize their swimming gaits. In addition to continuous stroking and stroke and-glide gaits described for other diving mammals, all whales produced occasional fluke-strokes with distinctly larger dorsoventral acceleration, which we termed 'type-B' strokes. These high-power strokes occurred almost exclusively during deep dive ascents as part of a novel mixed gait. To quantify body rotations and specific acceleration generated during strokes we adapted a kinematic method combining data from two sensors in the tag. Body rotations estimated with high-rate magnetometer data were subtracted from accelerometer data to estimate the resulting surge and heave accelerations. Using this method, we show that stroke duration, rotation angle and acceleration were bi-modal for these species, with B-strokes having 76% of the duration, 52% larger body rotation and four times more surge than normal strokes. The additional acceleration of B-strokes did not lead to faster ascents, but rather enabled brief glides, which may improve the overall efficiency of this gait. Their occurrence towards the end of long dives leads us to propose that B-strokes may recruit fast-twitch fibres that comprise similar to 80% of swimming muscles in Blainville's beaked whales, thus prolonging foraging time at depth.
Martin Lopez , L M , Miller , P J O , de Soto , N A & Johnson , M 2015 , ' Gait switches in deep-diving beaked whales : biomechanical strategies for long-duration dives ' Journal of Experimental Biology , vol 218 , no. 9 , pp. 1325-1338 . DOI: 10.1242/jeb.106013
Journal of Experimental Biology
Copyright 2015 The authors. Published by The Company of Biologists.
Work in the Canary Islands was funded by the Office of Naval Research and the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP), by a consortium consisting of the Canary Islands Government, the Spanish Ministry of Environment and the Spanish Ministry of Defense and by the European environmental funding LIFE-INDEMARES program for the inventory and designation of the Natura 2000 network in marine areas of the Spanish territory, headed by Fundacion Biodiversidad, with additional support from the Cabildo Insular of El Hierro. Fieldwork in the Ligurian Sea was funded by NOPP. Research in the Gully was funded by the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) programs RC-2113 and RC-2337. L.M.M.L. was funded by a ‘la Caixa’ Fellowship within the 2010 UK Framework Programme. N.A.d.S. was funded for this study by ONR and by the EU FP7 Marie Curie project SOUNDMAR. M.J. was funded by a Marie Curie Career Integration Grant, and from the MASTS pooling initiative (The Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland) and their support is gratefully acknowledged. MASTS is funded by the Scottish Funding Council (grant reference HR09011) and contributing institutions.
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