Body cooling and its energetic implications for feeding and diving of tufted ducks

Physiol Zool. Nov-Dec 1998;71(6):720-30. doi: 10.1086/516003.


Wintering in a temperate climate with low water temperatures is energetically expensive for diving ducks. The energy costs associated with body cooling due to diving and ingesting large amounts of cold food were measured in tufted ducks (Aythya fuligula) feeding on zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha), using implanted heart rate and body temperature transmitters. The effects of diving depth and food ingestion were measured in two sets of experiments: we measured body cooling and energy costs of six tufted ducks diving to different depths in a 6-m-deep indoor tank; the costs for food ingestion and crushing mussel shells were assessed under seminatural winter conditions with the same ducks feeding on mussels in a 1.5-m-deep outdoor pond. Body temperature dropped during feeding bouts and increased gradually during intermittent resting periods. The temperature drop increased linearly with dive duration. The rate of body cooling increased with feeding depth, but it was lower again at depths below 4 m. Half of the increment in energy costs of diving can be attributed to thermoregulatory heat production, of which approximately 50% is generated after diving to warm up the body. The excess costs for ducks feeding on large-sized mussels could be entirely explained by the estimated energy cost necessary to compensate the heat loss following food ingestion, suggesting that the heat production from shell crushing substituted for thermoregulation. Recovery from heat loss is probably a major component of the activity budget of wintering diving ducks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Bivalvia
  • Body Temperature
  • Diet
  • Diving / physiology*
  • Ducks / physiology*
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Energy Metabolism*