It Costs to Be Clean and Fit: Energetics of Comfort Behavior in Breeding-Fasting Penguins
by Vincent A. Viblanc, Adeline Mathien, Claire Saraux, Vanessa M. Viera, René Groscolas
Birds may allocate a significant part of time to comfort behavior (e.g., preening, stretching, shaking, etc.) in order to eliminate parasites, maintain plumage integrity, and possibly reduce muscular ankylosis. Understanding the adaptive value of comfort behavior would benefit from knowledge on the energy costs animals are willing to pay to maintain it, particularly under situations of energy constraints, e.g., during fasting. We determined time and energy devoted to comfort activities in freely breeding king penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus), seabirds known to fast for up to one month during incubation shifts ashore.
A time budget was estimated from focal and scan sampling field observations and the energy cost of comfort activities was calculated from the associated increase in heart rate (HR) during comfort episodes, using previously determined equations relating HR to energy expenditure. We show that incubating birds spent 22% of their daily time budget in comfort behavior (with no differences between day and night) mainly devoted to preening (73%) and head/body shaking (16%). During comfort behavior, energy expenditure averaged 1.24 times resting metabolic rate (RMR) and the corresponding energy cost (i.e., energy expended in excess to RMR) was 58 kJ/hr. Energy expenditure varied greatly among various types of comfort behavior, ranging from 1.03 (yawning) to 1.78 (stretching) times RMR. Comfort behavior contributed 8.8–9.3% to total daily energy expenditure and 69.4–73.5% to energy expended daily for activity. About half of this energy was expended caring for plumage.
This study is the first to estimate the contribution of comfort behavior to overall energy budget in a free-living animal. It shows that although breeding on a tight energy budget, king penguins devote a substantial amount of time and energy to comfort behavior. Such findings underline the importance of comfort behavior for the fitness of colonial seabirds.
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Syndicated from:PLoS ONE
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