Abdominally implanted transmitters with percutaneous antennas affect the dive performance of Common Eiders

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Implanted transmitters have become an important tool for studying the ecology of sea ducks, but their effects remain largely undocumented. To address this, we assessed how abdominally implanted transmitters with percutaneous antennas affect the vertical dive speeds, stroke frequencies, bottom time, and dive duration of captive Common Eiders (Somateria mollissima). To establish baselines, we recorded video of six birds diving 4.9 m prior to surgery, implanted them with 38- to 47-g platform transmitter terminals, and then recorded their diving for 3.5 months after surgery to determine effects. Descent speeds were 16–25% slower and ascent speeds were 17–44% slower after surgery, and both remained below baseline at the end of the study. Dive durations were longer than baseline until day 22. On most days between 15 and 107 days after surgery, foot-stroke frequencies of birds foraging on the bottom were slower. Foot- and wing-stroke frequencies during descent and bottom time did not differ across the time series. If birds that rely on benthic invertebrates for sustenance dive slower and stay submerged longer after being implanted with a satellite transmitter, their foraging energetics may be affected. Researchers considering use of implanted transmitters with percutaneous antennas should be mindful of these effects and the possibility of concomitant alterations in diving behavior, foraging success, and migratory behavior compared to those of unmarked conspecifics.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Abdominally implanted transmitters with percutaneous antennas affect the dive performance of Common Eiders
Series title Condor
DOI 10.1525/cond.2010.090022
Volume 112
Issue 2
Year Published 2010
Language English/Spanish
Publisher BioOne
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Leetown
Description 8 p.
First page 314
Last page 322
Country United States
State Alaska
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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