Counting calories in cormorants: dynamic body acceleration predicts daily energy expenditure measured in pelagic cormorants

Mason R Stothart, Kyle H Elliott, Thomas Wood, Scott A Hatch, John R Speakman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)
10 Downloads (Pure)


The integral of the dynamic component of acceleration over time has been proposed as a measure of energy expenditure in wild animals. We tested that idea by attaching accelerometers to free-ranging pelagic cormorants (Phalacrocorax pelagicus) and simultaneously estimating energy expenditure using doubly-labelled water. Two different formulations of dynamic body acceleration, VeDBA and ODBA, correlated with mass specific energy expenditure (both R(2)=0.91). VeDBA models combining and separately parameterizing flying, diving, activity on land and surface swimming were consistently considered more parsimonious than time budget models and showed less variability in model fit. Additionally, we observed provisional evidence for the presence of hypometabolic processes (i.e. reduced heart rate and body temperature; shunting of blood away from non-essential organs) that suppressed metabolism in cormorants while diving, which was the most metabolically important activity. We concluded that a combination of VeDBA and physiological processes accurately measured energy expenditure for cormorants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2192-2200
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number14
Early online date19 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2016

Bibliographical note

The doubly-labelled water assays and accelerometers were paid for by the authors. Funding to reach Middleton Island was supported through the Animal Behaviour Society Research Grant and the Northern Scientific Training Program of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.


  • doubly-labelled water
  • accelerometry
  • field metabolic rate


Dive into the research topics of 'Counting calories in cormorants: dynamic body acceleration predicts daily energy expenditure measured in pelagic cormorants'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this