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Testing and deployment of C-VISS (cetacean-borne video camera and integrated sensor system) on wild dolphins


Abstract and Figures

Multi-sensor biologgers are a powerful method for studying individual behaviors of free-ranging species, yet the challenges of attaching non-invasive biologgers to agile, fast-moving marine species have prohibited application of this technique to small (<5 m) cetaceans. Integration of video cameras into such biologgers is critical to understanding behavior from the animal’s perspective; however, this technique has not been applied to small cetaceans. We examined the feasibility of remotely deploying a cetacean-borne video camera and integrated sensor system (“C-VISS”) on small cetaceans. We deployed C-VISS on eight free-swimming dusky dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) off New Zealand (42°25′15″S 173°40′23″E) from December 2015 to January 2016, collecting a total of 535 min of video footage (average = 66.8 ± 91.10 SD, range 9–284). Dolphins were observed to show limited reactions to biologger attachment attempts and deployments. Social and environmental parameters derived from video footage include conspecific body condition, mother-calf spatial positioning, affiliative behavior, sexual behavior, sociability, prey, and habitat type. The ability to record behavioral states and fine-scale events from the individual’s perspective will yield new insights into the behavior, socioecology, conservation, rehabilitation, and welfare of small cetaceans.
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Mar Biol (2017) 164:42
DOI 10.1007/s00227-017-3079-z
Testing anddeployment ofC-VISS (cetacean-borne video camera
andintegrated sensor system) onwild dolphins
HeidiC.Pearson1,2· PeterW.Jones3· MridulaSrinivasan4· DavidLundquist5·
ChristopherJ.Pearson2· KarenA.Stockin6· GabrielE.Machovsky-Capuska7
Received: 19 July 2016 / Accepted: 18 January 2017
© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017
(“C-VISS”) on small cetaceans. We deployed C-VISS on
eight free-swimming dusky dolphins (Lagenorhynchus
obscurus) off New Zealand (42°2515S 173°4023E)
from December 2015 to January 2016, collecting a total of
535min of video footage (average = 66.8 ± 91.10 SD, range
9–284). Dolphins were observed to show limited reactions
to biologger attachment attempts and deployments. Social
and environmental parameters derived from video footage
include conspecific body condition, mother-calf spatial
positioning, affiliative behavior, sexual behavior, sociabil-
ity, prey, and habitat type. The ability to record behavioral
states and fine-scale events from the individual’s perspec-
tive will yield new insights into the behavior, socioecology,
conservation, rehabilitation, and welfare of small cetaceans.
In spite of recent advances in biologger technology,
fine-scale aspects of behavior, physiology, and ecology
“from the animal’s perspective” remain mostly unknown
for many species (Moll etal. 2007; Hays etal. 2016).
For apex marine predators, such as cetaceans, such data
are critical for creating conservation and management
strategies and understanding the adaptive significance
of social behavior (Dudzinski 1998), individuals’ roles
in structuring ecological communities, vertical oceano-
graphic profiles, and impacts from anthropogenic pres-
sures. Direct observations independent of visual confir-
mation may be conducted via deployment of biologgers
combining multiple sensors (Machovsky-Capuska et al.
2016a). However, studies involving direct observations
of free-ranging individual behavior in highly gregari-
ous species, such as small (<5 m) cetaceans, are rare.
To advance our knowledge of these species, several
Abstract Multi-sensor biologgers are a powerful method
for studying individual behaviors of free-ranging species,
yet the challenges of attaching non-invasive biologgers to
agile, fast-moving marine species have prohibited applica-
tion of this technique to small (<5m) cetaceans. Integra-
tion of video cameras into such biologgers is critical to
understanding behavior from the animal’s perspective;
however, this technique has not been applied to small ceta-
ceans. We examined the feasibility of remotely deploying a
cetacean-borne video camera and integrated sensor system
Responsible Editor: Y. Cherel.
Reviewed by E. Ferrari and undisclosed experts.
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this
article (doi:10.1007/s00227-017-3079-z) contains supplementary
material, which is available to authorized users.
* Heidi C. Pearson
1 University ofAlaska Southeast, 11120 Glacier Hwy, Juneau,
AK99801, USA
2 Dusky Dolphin Research Project, 17131 Glacier Hwy,
Juneau, AK99801, USA
3 School ofElectrical andInformation Engineering, The
University ofSydney, Sydney, Australia
4 National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway,
SilverSpring, MD20910, USA
5 Department ofConservation, 18-32 Manners St,
Wellington6143, NewZealand
6 Coastal-Marine Research Group, Institute ofNatural
andMathematical Sciences, Massey University, Auckland,
7 Sydney School ofVeterinary Sciences, Charles Perkins
Centre, The University ofSydney, Sydney, Australia
Mar Biol (2017) 164:42
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challenges must be overcome including: undertaking
the continuous observations necessary to interpret the
behavior of individuals within highly gregarious but
cryptic social groups (Challenge 1; e.g., Rutz and Hayes
2009); studying species that spend the majority of their
lives underwater (Challenge 2; Marshall 1998; Davis
et al. 1999); working with species characterized by
typically small, curved body sizes and fast and evasive
movements, which provide a narrow window of oppor-
tunity for biologger deployment (Challenge 3); concerns
over the use of invasive pronged satellite biologgers
(Challenge 4; e.g., Andrews etal. 2008); and retrieval of
data for analysis (Challenge 5).
Over the past 20years, animal-borne video cameras
have provided glimpses of fine-scale behaviors that
enabled insights into understanding individual actions
within groups (Moll etal. 2007). Short-term, non-inva-
sive biologgers incorporating animal-borne video cam-
eras have successfully obtained footage from diverse
marine taxa, including: invertebrates (e.g., Passaglia
etal. 1997), sharks (e.g., Heithaus etal. 2001), sea tur-
tles (e.g., Heithaus etal. 2002), seabirds (e.g., Grémillet
etal. 2006), pinnipeds (e.g., Davis etal. 1999), manatees
(e.g., Adimey etal. 2007), and baleen whales (e.g., Wil-
liams et al. 2000). However, biologger deployments in
the aforementioned species were facilitated via use of:
(1) animals with large body sizes and broad, relatively
flat surfaces that facilitated biologger attachment or (2)
the ability to capture and restrain the animals. While
some previous studies (Stone et al. 1994; Hanson and
Baird 1998; Baird etal. 2001; Kaplan etal. 2014; Silva
et al. 2016) succeeded in remotely deploying suction-
cup biologgers on small Cetacea to record diving and
movement patterns, none to our knowledge have utilized
animal-borne video cameras.
Here, we examine the feasibility of remote deploy-
ment of an animal-borne, multi-sensor, suction-cup
biologger (Cetacean-borne Video camera and Integrated
Sensor System or “C-VISS”) on small cetaceans. As pre-
vious impact studies of remote deployment of suction-
cup biologgers in small cetaceans have shown diverse
effects ranging from mild (Stone etal. 1994; Hanson and
Baird 1998; Sakai etal. 2011; Silva etal. 2016) to strong
reactions that led to the abandonment of the method
(Schneider et al. 1998), we will additionally provide
evidence of: (1) the components of our biologger and
field techniques that enabled our success; (2) the differ-
ent individual reactions encountered during attachment
and deployment attempts; (3) the maximum biologger
attachment duration; and (4) the social and environmen-
tal parameters that can be obtained from our biologger.
Materials andmethods
Study species andsite
Our focal species was the dusky dolphin (Lagenorhynchus
obscurus). This small-bodied (maximum length 1.8 m,
maximum weight 85 kg; Cipriano 1992) gregarious spe-
cies has been the focus of long-term study off the coast of
Kaikoura, New Zealand since the mid-1980s (Würsig and
Würsig 2010). Both species and study site were optimal for
developing and testing our biologging method, because:
(1) approximately 2000 dusky dolphins may be found off
Kaikoura at any given time (Markowitz 2004); (2) indi-
viduals form large groups (up to 1000) of mixed age-sex
classes near shore during the day (Markowitz 2004); and
(3) dolphin tourism (Buurman 2010) and regular research
presence (Würsig and Würsig 2010) have habituated the
dolphins to vessel presence.
C-VISS components
C-VISS consists of a syntactic foam float (modified and
customized from a Wildlife Computers base model) to
which a miniaturized video camera, time-depth recorder
(TDR), miniature very high frequency (VHF) and satel-
lite (platform transmitter terminal, PTT) transmitters, and
four silicon suction cups are attached using a combina-
tion of cable ties and screws (Table1; Fig.1a). C-VISS is
positively buoyant and weighted on one end. Thus, C-VISS
rises to the surface upon release from the individual, so
that the antennae sit upright when floating at the surface to
allow tracking for recovery.
The video camera (modeled after Machovsky-Capuska
etal. 2016b) is based around a U10 Mini USB Flash Drive
DVR Camera (Taiwan) with an OV7670 optical sensor
having 36° field-of-view and with a resolution of 720 × 480
pixels captured at 30 frames/s (Fig.1b). The video camera
is powered by a Turnigy nano-tech 600 mAh 1 S lithium
polymer battery which provides a maximum recording
time of c.a. 4h. The deployed video camera generates an
AVI file containing video (MJPG codec) and audio every
30min each of which has a size of approximately 1.2GB
and is written to a 32 GB microSD card. We used a UP
Plus extruded-filament 3D printer (also sold under the
Afinia brand) with ABS plastic filament to produce a close-
fitting case to minimize size and weight while retaining suf-
ficient structural protection. Waterproofing is provided by
inserting the video camera into a Qualatex 646 balloon and
attaching a clear Perspex disk secured with an o-ring to the
lens end. The video camera on/off and recording functions
are operated using a small handheld magnet.
C-VISS is deployed using a 1–2.5 m extendable pole
with a custom-made solid foam core or cradle hollowed out
Mar Biol (2017) 164:42
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specifically to fit the biologger (Fig.2). Velcro is used to
attach C-VISS to the cradle on the end of the deployment
pole. Once the suction cups on the underside of the biolog-
ger adhere to the animal, the simultaneous momentum of
the deployment pole being pulled back and the dolphin
swimming away from the pole causes the Velcro between
C-VISS and the cradle to detach. The target area for attach-
ment was the lateral flank cranial to the dorsal fin (Fig.2).
Development andfield validation
C-VISS was developed and validated via a field technique
conducted during five trials (Fig.2). All trials except Trial
3 were conducted in the wild. During the wild dolphin tri-
als, two different 5m rigid hull inflatable boats were used;
one with a 60 hp four-stroke engine and one with a 100 hp
four-stroke engine. Dolphin groups were located with the
naked eye and approached at low speed (≤3 knots), moving
in a direction parallel to the group. Biologger attachment
attempts were made from the bow of the boat on adults as
they swam alongside and near the bow. Trial 3 was con-
ducted at the Vancouver Aquarium (Vancouver, BC),
where one Pacific white-sided dolphin (L. obliquidens) was
housed in an outdoor pool measuring 2.4 × 104m
3 with a
volume of 2.5 × 106L, temperature of 16.1 °C, pH of 7.51,
and salinity of 28.1 ppt. As dusky dolphins do not occur
in captivity, we conducted captive trials on the Pacific
white-sided dolphin, a species of comparable size to dusky
During Trials 1–4, C-VISS was created and we devel-
oped an observational protocol to determine reactions
and potential effects of C-VISS on dolphins. As described
below, we used a stepwise approach to adding compo-
nents to the biologger. The aims of Trials 1–4 were to
test: (1) dusky dolphin reactions to attachment attempts
of a lower profile suction-cup biologgger without a video
camera (Trial 1; see Fig.2); (2) dusky dolphin reactions to
Table 1 C-VISS components, specifications, and approximate costs
Component Dimensions (L × W × H (mm)),
weight (g)
Model and manufacturer Approximate unit cost (USD)
Syntactic foam float with lead
175 × 110 × 20, 152 Modified from AZ-FLOAT-010,
wildlife computers (Redmond,
Time-depth recorder 33 × 7 × 7, 3 LAT 1500, Sirtrack (Havelock
North, New Zealand)
PTT/VHF transmitter 20 × 20 × 62 (without antennae), 41 Custom KiwiSat 202, Sirtrack
(Havelock North, New Zealand)
Video camera 108 × 27 × 27, 68 Custom-made, University of Sydney $1750
Silicon suction cups: 1 large and 3
Large: 80 × 80 × 40, 69
Small: 20 × 20 × 12, 3 (each)
Large “saddle cup” and 3 small
Acousonde” cups, Cetacean
Research Technology (Seattle,
$90 (large), $45 (small)
Fig. 1 C-VISS components. a Dorsal view of C-VISS. The time-
depth recorder is embedded in the float under the video camera. b
Video camera assembly
Mar Biol (2017) 164:42
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attachment attempts of a “dummy” biologger (a model of
similar size to C-VISS but with non-working video cam-
era components) (Trial 2); (3) reactions of a captive Pacific
white-sided dolphin to C-VISS deployments (Trial 3);
and (4) dusky dolphin reactions to attachment attempts of
C-VISS (Trial 4). During Trial 1, the optimal configura-
tion (i.e., number, placement, and combination) of large vs.
small suction cups was also determined; this configuration
(see Table1) was then used during all future trials.
Following Sakai etal. (2011), dusky dolphin reactions
to tagging attempts (measured according to change in an
individual’s behavior pre- vs. post- tagging attempt) dur-
ing Trials 1, 2, and 4 were classified as: (a) “none” when
behavior did not change; (b) “low” when behavior changed
slightly, but there was no apparent vigorous response (e.g.,
dive/swim away); (c) “moderate” when behavior was modi-
fied in a forceful manner (e.g., tail slap); and (d) “strong”
when behavior changed in a succession of forceful move-
ments (e.g., dive away and leap). Reactions were recorded
and classified in the field and verified post-hoc by analyz-
ing video footage (taken via GoPro Hero 3 + Black) of tag-
ging attempts.
When working with the captive Pacific white-sided
dolphin (Trial 3), remote deployment was not used. Thus,
reactions to C-VISS deployments were measured via respi-
ration rate recorded during randomly selected 5-min sam-
pling periods during low-intensity behavior during three
long-term (>30 min) deployments. This is the standard
method used by the Vancouver Aquarium to measure res-
piration rate for this animal (Vancouver Aquarium Marine
Mammal Trainer C. Nagata, pers. comm.).
During Trial 5, C-VISS was successfully deployed
(i.e., remained attached on the animal for >5min). Con-
tinuous VHF tracking was used to maintain the research
vessel within 500m of the group in which the instrumented
individual occurred. We assessed dusky dolphin reactions
to successful C-VISS deployments by determining if the
instrumented individual’s behavior matched overall group
behaviors. For each sighting of the instrumented individual
at the surface, we recorded individual and group behavio-
ral state (foraging, resting, socializing, traveling; Pearson
2009) and distance of the instrumented individual from the
research vessel. To further assess potential impacts of the
biologger, we used C-VISS video footage to measure res-
piration rate (no. surfacings/min, after Cipriano 1992) for
each instrumented animal. To assess proof of concept for
C-VISS, we measured biologger attachment duration across
successful deployments, identified social and environmen-
tal parameters that can be derived from video footage, and
analyzed depth data from the TDR.
Reactions tothebiologger
A total of 165 biologger attachment attempts were con-
ducted during the trials designed to assess wild dolphin
reactions to attachment attempts (Trials 1, 2, and 4). No
negative effects from biologger attachment attempts were
observed during these trials. Most (90%, n = 148) dusky
dolphin reactions to biologger attachment attempts were
classified as “low” (Fig.2). The most commonly observed
behavioral response to biologger attachment attempts was
for the individual to quickly swim or dive away from the
deployment pole. During the captive trial (Trial 3), average
respiration rate for the instrumented animal was 2.1 ± 0.54
SD breaths/min (N = 10 5-min sampling periods, range
Fig. 2 Summary of the trials conducted for validation and deploy-
ment of C-VISS. The graphs depict the primary outcome evaluated
during each trial (Trial 1N = 61, Trial 2 N = 19, Trial 3 N = 10, Trial
4N = 85, Trial 5 N = 8). For Trials 1, 2, and 4, dolphin reactions to
biologger attachment attempts are as defined in the text [none, low,
moderate (mod.), and strong]. For Trial 3, respiration rate was used to
assess individual reaction to biologger attachment
Mar Biol (2017) 164:42
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1.8–3.2 breaths/min). This was near to the expected range
of 2.2–3.4 breaths/min for this animal when engaged in
low-intensity behavior (Vancouver Aquarium Marine
Mammal Trainer C. Nagata, pers. comm.) and compara-
ble to values reported for wild Pacific white-sided dolphins
(2.5 ± 0.32 SD breaths/min; Black 1994). In addition, the
instrumented dolphin was observed to perform typical
activities (e.g., playing with an enrichment ball; Fig. 2).
During all surface sightings of instrumented dusky dol-
phins throughout successful deployments during Trial
5, individuals were engaged in the same behavioral state
as the group and exhibited no avoidance relative to the
research vessel. Average respiration rate was 2.6 ± 0.72/min
(N = 8, range 1.61–4.23).
Attachment duration
During Trial 1, 4% (n = 3) of attempts were successful. No
successful attachments were achieved during Trials 2 and 4.
Maximum biologger attachment durations during Trials 1
and 3 were 360 and 255min, respectively, providing initial
proof of concept that suction-cup biologgers can success-
fully be applied to small Cetacea, such as Lagenorhynchus
spp. Total attachment durations during Trials 1 and 3 were
476 min (N = 3, mean = 158.7 ± 174.4 SD, min. = 29)
and 615 min (N = 9, mean = 68.3 ± 85.92 SD, min. = 14),
During Trial 5, 12% (n = 8) of attempts were successful.
Total C-VISS attachment duration across eight success-
ful deployments was 566 min (mean = 71.9 ± 96.03 SD,
range 9–299; Fig.2), with a total of 535min of video foot-
age obtained (mean = 66.8 ± 91.10 SD, range 9-284). Total
C-VISS attachment duration exceeded the total duration of
video footage, because the video camera was turned on at
the commencement of biologger attachment attempts, with
some battery power consumed in the period prior to suc-
cessful attachment on the animal.
Social andenvironmental parameters
We identified seven social and environmental parameters
that can be obtained from C-VISS footage: conspecific
body condition (Fig. 3a), mother-calf spatial positioning
according to infant (calf swims underneath its mother) or
echelon (calf swims alongside its mother) position (Mann
and Smuts 1999; Fig. 3b, Video S1), affiliative behavior
Fig. 3 Video stills of social and environmental parameters recorded
by C-VISS. a Conspecific body condition assessed via presence/
absence of wounds/disfigurements. b Mother-calf spatial positioning
categorized as: (1) infant position or (2) echelon position. c Conspe-
cific affiliative behavior identified by flipper rubbing. d Conspecific
sexual behavior identified by an erect penis. e Minimum social index.
Three conspecifics are shown here. f Prey availability determined by
presence and type. g Habitat type assessed by substrate type
Mar Biol (2017) 164:42
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(Fig.3c), sexual behavior (Fig.3d), minimum social index
(no. conspecifics in view/min; Fig. 3e, Video S1), prey
(Fig. 3f), and habitat type (Fig. 3g). The average depth
of instrumented individuals recorded by the TDR was
5.6 ± 5.33m (N = 8, max = 46.5).
Here, we describe the first study to successfully deploy
an animal-borne video camera on small Cetacea. As pre-
viously described, there are several inherent challenges
to studying fine-scale aspects of cetacean behavior. With
C-VISS, we have overcome these challenges by: (1) inte-
grating a novel combination of sensors that allowed us to
observe the social and environmental interactions of indi-
viduals in large groups while eliminating the potentially
negative effects of a research vessel in close and constant
proximity (Challenges 1–2); (2) creating a custom-made
deployment mechanism and developing a remote-deploy-
ment technique which facilitated success in attaching
the biologger to fast-swimming, free-ranging individu-
als (Challenge 3); (3) using suction cups for non-invasive
attachment (Challenge 4); and (4) integrating coarse-range
(VHF) and fine-range (PTT) transmitters for biologger
retrieval and subsequent data download (Challenge 5).
Importantly, mainly mild reactions to biologging attach-
ment attempts and deployment were observed at the sur-
face, indicating that C-VISS is a safe method for cetaceans
>5m for short duration deployments. Furthermore, while
respiration rates for non-instrumented individual dusky
dolphins are not available (per Challenge 1), the average
respiration rate of instrumented individuals during Trial
5 was similar to that reported for radio-tagged dusky dol-
phins (Cipriano 1992) and Pacific white-sided dolphins
(Black 1994).
Our deployment success rate and mean and maximum
biologger attachment durations during Trial 5 were lower
than that reported in deployments of animal-borne cam-
eras on large cetaceans, such as blue (Balaenoptera mus-
culus; Calambokidis etal. 2007), humpback (Megaptera
novaeangliae; Cade et al. 2016), and sperm (Physeter
macrocephalus; Marshall 1998) whales. However, the
aforementioned species are >5 times longer and >300
times heavier than dusky dolphins (Jefferson etal. 2008)
and typically travel at one-half the speed of dusky dol-
phins (Würsig and Würsig 1980 for dusky dolphins; Wat-
kins etal. 2002 for sperm whales; Bailey etal. 2009 for
blue whales; Horton et al. 2016 for humpback whales),
all of which facilitates biologger deployment and attach-
ment success. Furthermore, animal-borne technology for
large cetaceans has been in development for more than
20 years (Marshall 1998). As we continue to refine the
hydrodynamic design of the biologger and enhance our
deployment technique, we expect that deployment suc-
cess and attachment durations in small cetaceans will
approach those in larger cetaceans.
Over the past 30 years, traditional surface-based obser-
vations have been a primary method for advancing under-
standing of cetacean behavior (Samuels and Tyack 2000).
However, there is limited capacity for tracking fine-scale
individual behaviors for durations >5min in agile, free-
ranging, and gregarious species, such as small cetaceans
(Mann 1999; Whitehead 2004). Our multi-sensor biolog-
ger overcomes this obstacle by allowing researchers to
conduct prolonged focal animal observations (Altmann
1974) to track and record the behavior of the same indi-
vidual amidst a group of hundreds of other individuals.
This information, combined with vertical movements
obtained from diving data and various abiotic (substrate
type, Fig.3f) and biotic (prey availability, Fig.3e; con-
specifics, Fig.3a–d) factors, represents a crucial method-
ological advancement in studying the social and foraging
strategies of small cetaceans.
Findings presented here suggest that C-VISS has
the potential to complement traditional data collection
methods and advance the state of knowledge on dolphin
behavior, particularly with respect to cryptic social and
maternal strategies and their interaction with environ-
mental parameters. We also foresee practical applications
for future cetacean research using animal-borne video
cameras, including: (1) conservation strategies that uti-
lize fine-scale information on interactions between biotic
and abiotic factors and (2) assessment of release success
in rehabilitated cetaceans. Future enhancement of this
biologger should focus on continued evaluation of its
physical and behavioral effects on dolphins, maximiz-
ing attachment duration through continued miniaturiza-
tion, improving hydrodynamic design using 3D printing,
the incorporation of a 360° lens in the camera, and inte-
gration of advanced sensors (inertial measurement unit,
temperature, light, and accelerometer) to further moni-
tor dolphin movements in the context of their physical
Acknowledgements Thanks to: K. Brown, H. Butcher, A. Fanucci-
Kiss, E. Hill, A. Judkins, and J. Weir for field assistance; S. Gan for
assistance with video analysis; M. Morrissey/Department of Conser-
vation (DOC) and B. and M. Würsig for use of their research vessels
and other field support; and the Vancouver Aquarium marine mam-
mal trainers for their assistance during the captive trials. Funding was
provided by a National Geographic Society/Waitt Fund Grant; the
Encounter Foundation; the Faculty of Veterinary Science and School
of Electrical and Information Engineering, The University of Sydney;
the Herchel Smith-Harvard Undergraduate Science Research Pro-
gram; and the University of Alaska Southeast. This material is also
based in part upon work supported by the Alaska NASA EPSCoR
Program (NNX13AB28A).
Mar Biol (2017) 164:42
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Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest All authors declare that they have no conflicts
of interest.
Ethical approval All applicable international, national, and/or insti-
tutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All
procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance
with the ethical standards of the institution or practice at which the
studies were conducted. This study was conducted under University of
Alaska Fairbanks IACUC 490961-8, Massey University Animal Eth-
ics Committee approval MU13/90, and DOC permit 37696-MAR. The
authors have no conflicts of interest to declare. This article does not
contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the
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... However, the small body size that limits the surface area available for biologger attachment and hence biologger size, their fast-moving nature, and the need for remote tag deployment have limited the application of this method on small dolphins. Recently, a non-invasive, animalborne camera system (Cetacean-borne Video camera and Integrated Sensor System or C-VISS) coupled with a time depth recorder (TDR) was deployed on dusky dolphins (Pearson et al. 2017a). By combining visual behavioral data with depth data, new questions can be answered that will advance fine-scale understanding of gregariousness in dolphins. ...
... We deployed C-VISS (Pearson et al. 2017a) on adult dusky dolphins during the day as they swam alongside the research vessel. C-VISS is an archival biologger containing a video camera with 36°field of view powered by a Turnigy nanotech 600 mAh 1 S lithium polymer battery with a maximum recording time of approximately 4 h, a TDR, and a PTT/VHF transmitter housed in a syntactic foam float that is weighted on one end (Fig. 2a). ...
... Upon release from the animal, C-VISS rises to the water surface sitting upright with the PTT/VHF antennae enabling retrieval. Further specifications on C-VISS are found in Pearson et al. (2017a). To record diving behavior only, we also deployed a modified version of C-VISS that contained only a TDR and VHF/PTT transmitters (Fig. 2c). ...
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Knowledge of proximate (causation and development) and ultimate (evolution and survival function) causes of gregariousness is necessary to advance our knowledge of animal societies. Delphinids are among the most social taxa; however, fine-scale understanding of their intra-specific relationships is hindered by the need for underwater observations on individuals. We developed a non-invasive animal-borne camera system with the goal of examining influences on gregariousness in dusky dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obscurus). We analyzed video and diving records from 11 individual dusky dolphins off Kaikoura, New Zealand. We examined the influence of biologger attachment on dolphin behavior and tested hypotheses regarding the effects of physiology, predation, and inter-individual variation on conspecific interactions. Dolphins did not exhibit increased rates of descent or ascent in the minutes immediately following biologger attachment, indicating a lack of behavioral response. Respiration rate was positively related to dive depth and duration, suggesting that diving is energetically expensive for this species. Gregariousness was negatively related to dive depth providing evidence that the physiological constraints of diving are likely to limit social behavior. Calves were not observed more frequently in infant (vs. echelon) position with increasing depth, highlighting the likelihood of other anti-predation strategies (e.g., dilution effect) in mother-calf pairs. We found that gregariousness differed between individuals within similar social groups, suggesting the importance of collecting data at the individual level. The evidence presented herein suggests that the further development of animal-borne camera systems will yield further insight into the mechanisms underlying delphinid social behavior. Significance statement Dolphins are highly social and thus excellent model species for examining the cause and function of gregariousness. However, their cryptic nature poses a challenge to collecting the fine-scale data at the individual level required to conduct rigorous hypothesis tests. We overcame this obstacle by deploying a non-invasive cutting-edge biologger on free-ranging dusky dolphins to collect information on diving behavior, physiology, gregariousness, and mother-calf strategies. Results indicate that diving is energetically expensive, even to relatively shallow depths, and these costs likely hinder gregariousness at depth. Individual differences in gregariousness were apparent and as expected in this fission-fusion society. Unexpectedly, mother-calf pairs appeared to utilize strategies other than spatial positioning to minimize predation risk. This study advanced knowledge of dolphin social life and helps to improve the degree of data resolution in cetaceans to a level on par with terrestrial studies.
... The mean respiration rate of mating female dusky dolphins (5.5 breaths/min) was much higher than females in nursery groups also obtained by UAV (2.8 breaths/min; Weir et al., 2018), and dusky dolphins tagged with biologgers (2.1 breaths/min; Pearson et al., 2017). Mating activity is rigorous and may require more breaths to replenish oxygen supplies. ...
... However, there are still many data acquisition challenges to overcome as current multisensor biologgers that attach via suction cup typically detach from dusky dolphins after 67 min (Pearson et al., 2017), boat based observations may overlook respirations with no evident breath, and drone battery life constrains lengthy focal follows to about 20 consecutive minutes. Unlike biologger data, however, video footage can also provide a context for behavior as the activity states of animals can be monitored (e.g., resting, traveling, feeding). ...
Few studies have explored the mating patterns of free‐ranging cetaceans, largely because of logistical challenges. We used an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to follow and video‐record 25 groups of mating dusky dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) near the surface of the water and examine how behavior patterns varied with mating group type. We collected aerial footage of dolphins mating in traditional Isolated Pods and within Integrated Pods and compared differences in the number of mating animals, swimming speed, bearing change, percent time at the surface of the water, female respiration rate, copulatory position rate, and sex‐specific mating behaviors. Only the mean number of mating animals and some sex‐specific mating behaviors varied significantly between the two mating group types. More dolphins were engaged in mating behaviors in Isolated Pods than Integrated Pods. Males engaged in more interference behaviors in Isolated Pods compared to Integrated Pods. Females performed fewer speed bursts but more rolls on their backs in Integrated Pods compared to Isolated Pods. Several similarities and differences were found in comparison to boat‐based research of the same population of dolphins. We highlight the value of UAVs for noninvasive and accurate collection of cetacean behavioral data.
... noisy leaping, Fig. 18.2), which may serve to coordinate group movement in preparation for offshore, nighttime feeding (Markowitz 2004). Mean daytime depth of dusky dolphins in large mixed groups is 5.6 AE 5.33 m, indicative of nonfeeding behavior (Pearson et al. 2017a). Similar to Península Valdés, reproduction is seasonal off Kaikoura. ...
... However, advancements in bio-logger technology are facilitating collection of fine-scale data on individual behavior. For example, the recent development of a noninvasive animal-borne camera suitable for small (<2 m) cetaceans has provided new glimpses of how dusky dolphins interact and care for their young (Video S2, Pearson et al. 2017a). Continued use of noninvasive bio-loggers will also deepen understanding of foraging and mating strategies. ...
Dusky dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) exhibit highly flexible foraging and social strategies. Studies in three distinct environments offer a natural experiment for understanding influences shaping dusky dolphin societies. In shallow bays off Patagonia, Argentina, dusky dolphins form small traveling groups during the day in search of small, schooling fish, but fission-fusion of large groups enhances predator detection/avoidance and mating opportunities. Predation risk is also minimized by resting in small groups near shore at night. In the deep open waters off Kaikoura, New Zealand, large mixed age and sex groups and satellite mating and nursery groups occur. Loosely coordinated subgroups forage nocturnally on the deep scattering layer. Large group formation is again an anti-predation strategy. In the shallow wintertime habitat of Admiralty Bay, New Zealand, coordinated bait-ball foraging occurs but in smaller groups than off Patagonia. Outside of the breeding season and in the absence of predation risk, Admiralty Bay grouping patterns are driven by opportunities to secure prey and social partners. Compared to many other delphinids, dusky dolphins are more gregarious yet more loosely bonded. The social brain hypothesis helps to explain the evolution of large relative brain size and complex sociality in dusky dolphins. Bycatch, habitat loss, climate change, and whale-watching are current threats to the species. Application of new technology and research on female behavior, culture, and lesser-studied populations will help to fill knowledge gaps and advance conservation strategies.
... For pure and applied objectives, a detailed understanding of both natural behavior and responses to human intervention is paramount. Pure biologging objectives usually focus on examining natural behavior, but this requires accounting for behavioral disturbances resulting from the tagging process, including capture and handling which are often necessitated for deployments on elusive or transient species, or due to tag application requirements (e.g., rigid attachment/careful alignment for accelerometers/magnetometers; Wilson et al., 2008;Shillinger et al., 2012; but see Chapple et al., 2015;Pearson et al., 2017). The magnitude, nature and duration of post-release disturbance can vary between individuals, species and contexts (e.g., capture behavior, environmental conditions; Gallagher et al., 2014;Guida et al., 2016;Whitney et al., 2016), yet these responses are often excluded from detailed analysis as unwanted side-effects to natural behavior (e.g., Coffey et al., 2020). ...
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Multisensor biologging provides a powerful tool for ecological research, enabling fine-scale observation of animals to directly link physiology and movement to behavior across ecological contexts. However, applied research into behavioral disturbance and recovery following human interventions (e.g., capture and translocation) has mostly relied on coarse location-based tracking or unidimensional approaches (e.g., dive profiles and activity/energetic metrics) that may not resolve behaviors and recovery processes. Biologging can improve insights into both disturbed and natural behavior, which is critical for management and conservation initiatives, although challenges remain in objectively identifying distinct behavioral modes from complex multisensor datasets. Using white sharks ( Carcharodon carcharias ) released from a non-lethal catch-and-release shark bite mitigation program, we explored how combining multisensor biologging (video, depth, accelerometers, gyroscopes, and magnetometers), track reconstruction and behavioral state modeling using hidden Markov models (HMMs) can improve our understanding of behavioral processes and recovery. Biologging tags were deployed on eight white sharks, recording their continuous behaviors, movements, and environmental context (habitat, interactions with other organisms/objects) for periods of 10–87 h post-release. Dive profiles and tailbeat analysis (as a standard, activity-based method for assessing recovery) indicated an immediate “disturbed” period of offshore movement, displaying rapid tailbeats and an average tailbeat-derived recovery period of 9.7 h, with evidence of smaller individuals having longer recoveries. However, further integrating magnetometer-derived headings, track reconstruction and HMM modeling revealed a cryptic shift to diurnal clockwise-counterclockwise circling behavior, which we argue represents compelling new evidence for hypothesized unihemispheric sleep amongst elasmobranchs. By simultaneously providing critical information toward conservation-focused shark management and understudied aspects of shark behavior, our study highlights how integrating multisensor information through HMMs can improve our understanding of both post-release and natural behavior, especially in species that are difficult to observe directly.
... This study contributes to an expanding base of literature on biologging, in which revolutions in camera technology and miniaturization of tags are providing insights into behaviours [25][26][27] as well as social context [28,29] and predator/prey fields [30][31][32][33]. The present study is the first successful autonomous tracking of a basking shark, adding to more than a dozen expeditions utilizing the REMUS-100 SharkCam AUV to track and simultaneously film marine vertebrates of interest (see also [22,24]). ...
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Background Biologging studies have revealed a wealth of information about the spatio-temporal movements of a wide range of vertebrates large enough to carry electronic tracking tags. Advances in autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs or UAVs) and unmanned aerial vehicles (commonly known as drones), which can carry far larger payloads of sensor technologies, have revealed insights into the environment through which animals travel. Some AUVs have been used to film target animals, but are generally limited to periods as long as a drone operator can actively follow an animal. In the present study, we use an AUV, the REMUS-100 SharkCam, paired with a custom transponder tag attached to the shark, to autonomously follow three basking sharks for a cumulative total of 10.9 h to collect video and environmental data on their sub-surface behaviour. The basking shark is the second largest fish in the world and is endangered globally, but despite being subject to various biologging studies, little is known of this species breeding ecology and their mating grounds remain unknown. Results We detail the first successful autonomous tracking of basking sharks, comprising three missions that filmed basking sharks in mid-water and close to benthic habitats. Sharks spent very little time feeding, and travelled relatively close to sandy, rocky and algae-covered benthos. One basking shark was observed defecating. Conspecifics were not observed in the three missions, nor were courtship or breeding behaviours. AUV offset distances for videography were determined iteratively through tracking. These offsets varied depending on the trade-off of between water clarity and proximity of the AUV for obtaining useful video data and directly influencing shark behaviour. Conclusions The present study is the first successful use of an AUV to gain insight into the sub-surface behaviour of basking sharks.
... These sensors, often termed biologgers, provide data about an animal's movements, behaviour and/or physiology (Fehlmann and King 2016), and often facilitate the collection of multiple forms of data simultaneously from wild animals. One particular type of biologger that has seen significant technological advances recently is the Some of the greatest scientific impacts of animal-borne loggers have been in marine mammals and birds, where direct observation is difficult or impossible (Machovsky-Capuska et al. 2016a;Machovsky-Capuska et al. 2016b;Pearson et al. 2017). AVEDs in particular have been deployed predominantly in large marine animals or birds, and this is partly related to the large size of these units, which limits the size of animal upon which they can be deployed, or the short-term nature of deployments in birds. ...
There have been significant advances in the development of animal-borne sensor technologies, or biologgers, in recent years. This has resulted in tremendous capacity for wildlife researchers to remotely collect physiological, behavioural and social data from wildlife in circumstances that were unthinkable just decades ago. While this technology can provide us with a unique insight into the “secret lives” of wild animals, there is a need to evaluate the utility of these new sensors versus traditional wildlife research methodologies, and to critically evaluate the integrity of the data collected by ensuring that these devices themselves do not alter the physiology or behaviour of the recipient animal. This paper reports on the development of a light weight “animal borne video and environmental data collection system” (AVED), which can be deployed on animals as small as 11 kg, whilst still meeting the desired 3% body weight threshold. This AVED (referred to as the “Kangaroo-cam”) simultaneously collects video footage and GPS location data for an average of 19 h. Kangaroo-cams were deployed on seven kangaroos as a proof of concept of their potential utility for the study of location specific behaviour and diet in a medium-sized terrestrial herbivore. Following device recovery and data processing, we were able to successfully score 83 foraging events which allowed us to determine diet based on visual identification (to the family level) of plants consumed. This approach could be further broadened to include a comparison of plant species consumed versus plant species encountered to provide a novel approach to diet selection analysis. When combined with GPS mapping of foraging locations, this approach would allow researchers to address questions on diet selection at both fine (within patch) and broad (habitat) spatial scales, overcoming some of the limitations of traditional diet selection methodologies. However, animal capture and collar deployment caused a significant elevation in stress hormone concentrations within the first 24 h post-capture, which highlighted the need to incorporate a time-delay capacity into these devices. We conclude the paper by reviewing recent advances in the development of AVED technology and providing suggestions for the improvement of this Kangaroo-cam device.
... Although few studies assessed the behavioural reactions to deployments (e.g. Pearson, Jones, Brandon, Stockin, & Machovsky-Capuska, 2019;Pearson et al., 2017;Vandenabeele et al., 2014), here Williams et al. (2020) discuss how many of these concerns have not been fully addressed yet. In particular, the authors highlight the need for more comprehensive information on physical principles (e.g. ...
... This information will be vital to further explore the population structure of this species. Future studies should also consider coupling animal-borne biologging techniques, including the recently tested cetacean-borne video camera and integrated sensor system (C-VISS, see more details in Pearson et al., 2017) with nutritional geometry and other indirect dietary analytic methods (e.g. stable isotopes, fatty acid signatures and others) to enhance our knowledge on the nutritional ecology of marine predators and improve conservation measures for endangered species (Machovsky-Capuska et al., 2016e). ...
... This information will be vital to further explore the population structure of this species. Future studies should also consider coupling animal-borne biologging techniques, including the recently tested cetacean-borne video camera and integrated sensor system (C-VISS, see more details in Pearson et al., 2017) with nutritional geometry and other indirect dietary analytic methods (e.g. stable isotopes, fatty acid signatures and others) to enhance our knowledge on the nutritional ecology of marine predators and improve conservation measures for endangered species (Machovsky-Capuska et al., 2016e). ...
Conference Paper
Disentangling the intricacies governing prey selection and dietary breadth in wild predators are important for understanding their role in structuring ecological communities and provides critical information for the management and conservation of ecologically threatened species. Here, we combined dietary analysis, nutritional composition analysis of prey, literature data and nutritional geometry (right-angled mixture triangle models -RMT-) in the most threatened small cetacean in the western South Atlantic Ocean, the franciscana dolphin (Pontoporia blainvillei). Our results demonstrate that franciscanas inhabiting the fourth franciscana management area (FMA IV) used different nutritional mechanisms to adjust their nutritional intake in spite of living in three different nutritional niches: estuarine, north marine and south marine. Using literature data and RMT models we also have found that franciscanas from Rio Grande do Sul (FMA III) have similar macronutrient compositions in the diets than marine franciscanas from the IV FMA, whereas northernmost franciscanas (Sao Paulo, FMA II and Rio de Janeiro, FMA I) achieve their nutritional intake through different mechanisms. These findings support previous suggestions on the presence of three populations within the FMA IV management unit and are vital to interpret the impact of coastal fisheries on this species. It is crucial to better comprehend food selection and dietary needs of the different franciscana populations to enhance the current management and format of four FMAs to protect this endangered marine predator.
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Animal-borne electronic instruments (tags) are valuable tools for collecting information on cetacean physiology, behaviour and ecology, and for enhancing conservation and management policies for cetacean populations. Tags allow researchers to track the movement patterns, habitat use and other aspects of the behaviour of animals that are otherwise difficult to observe. They can even be used to monitor the physiology of a tagged animal within its changing environment. Such tags are ideal for identifying and predicting responses to anthropogenic threats, thus facilitating the development of robust mitigation measures. With the increasing need for data best provided by tagging and the increasing availability of tags, such research is becoming more common. Tagging can, however, pose risks to the health and welfare of cetaceans and to personnel involved in tagging operations. Here we provide 'best practice' recommendations for cetacean tag design, deployment and follow-up assessment of tagged individuals, compiled by biologists and veterinarians with significant experience in cetacean tagging. This paper is intended to serve as a resource to assist tag users, veterinarians, ethics committees and regulatory agency staff in the implementation of high standards of practice, and to promote the training of specialists in this area. Standardised terminology for describing tag design and illustrations of tag types and attachment sites are provided, along with protocols for tag testing and deployment (both remote and through capture-release), including training of operators. The recommendations emphasise the importance of ensuring that tagging is ethically and scientifically justified for a particular project and that tagging only be used to address bona fide research or conservation questions that are best addressed with tagging, as supported by an exploration of alternative methods. Recommendations are provided for minimising effects on individual animals (e.g. through careful selection of the individual, tag design and implant sterilisation) and for improving knowledge of tagging effects on cetaceans through increased post-tagging monitoring.
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Non-invasive suction-cup radio tags were successfully placed on three free-swimming Hector's dolphins Cephalorhynchus hectori in Akaroa Harbor, New Zealand. This was the first time radio tags were applied to wild dolphins without capturing and detaining the animal. -from Authors
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Author Posting. © The Author(s), 2016. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of Society for Marine Mammalogy for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Marine Mammal Science 33 (2017): 653–668, doi:10.1111/mms.12376.
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It is a golden age for animal movement studies and so an opportune time to assess priorities for future work. We assembled 40 experts to identify key questions in this field, focussing on marine megafauna, which include a broad range of birds, mammals, reptiles, and fish. Research on these taxa has both underpinned many of the recent technical developments and led to fundamental discoveries in the field. We show that the questions have broad applicability to other taxa, including terrestrial animals, flying insects, and swimming invertebrates, and, as such, this exercise provides a useful roadmap for targeted deployments and data syntheses that should advance the field of movement ecology.
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Carnivorous animals are assumed to consume prey to optimise energy intake. Recently, however, studies using Nutritional Geometry (NG) have demonstrated that specific blends of macronutrients (e.g. protein, fat and in some cases carbohydrates), rather than energy per se, drive the food selection and intake of some vertebrate and invertebrate predators in the laboratory. A vital next step is to examine the role of nutrients in the foraging decisions of predators in the wild, but extending NG studies of carnivores from the laboratory to the field presents several challenges. Biologging technology offers a solution for collecting relevant data which when combined with NG will yield new insights into wild predator nutritional ecology.
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It is widely believed that predators maximise their energy intake while foraging and consume prey that are nutritionally similar. We combined GPS data loggers, miniaturised cameras, dietary sampling and nutritional geometry to examine the nutritional variability in the prey and selected diet, and foraging performance, of the masked booby (Sula dactylatra tasmani), a wild carnivore and marine top predator. Data loggers also revealed no significant differences between sexes in the foraging performance of chick-rearing adults. Females provided more food to their chicks than the males and, regardless of the nutritional variability of prey consumed, both sexes showed similar amounts of protein and lipid in their diets. Miniaturised cameras combined with nutritional analysis of prey provided, for the first time, fine-scale detail of the amounts of macronutrients consumed in each plunge dive and the overall foraging trip. Our methodology could be considered for future studies that aim to contribute to the general understanding of the behavioural and physiological mechanisms and ecological and evolutionary significance of animal foraging (e.g. energy expenditure budgets and prey selection for self- and offspring-feeding that could lead to sex-specific foraging strategies).
Rorqual whales exhibit an extreme lunge filter-feeding strategy characterized by acceleration to high speed and engulfment of a large volume of prey-laden water [1–4]. Although tagging studies have quantified the kinematics of lunge feeding, the timing of engulfment relative to body acceleration has been modeled conflictingly because it could never be directly measured [5–7]. The temporal coordination of these processes has a major impact on the hydrodynamics and energetics of this high-cost feeding strategy [5–9]. If engulfment and body acceleration are temporally distinct, the overall cost of this dynamic feeding event would be minimized. However, greater temporal overlap of these two phases would theoretically result in higher drag and greater energetic costs. To address this discrepancy, we used animal-borne synchronized video and 3D movement sensors to quantify the kinematics of both the skull and body during feeding events. Krill-feeding blue and humpback whales exhibited temporally distinct acceleration and engulfment phases, with humpback whales reaching maximum gape earlier than blue whales. In these whales, engulfment coincided largely with body deceleration; however, humpback whales pursuing more agile fish demonstrated highly variable coordination of skull and body kinematics in the context of complex prey-herding techniques. These data suggest that rorquals modulate the coordination of acceleration and engulfment to optimize foraging efficiency by minimizing locomotor costs and maximizing prey capture. Moreover, this newfound kinematic diversity observed among rorquals indicates that the energetic efficiency of foraging is driven both by the whale's engulfment capacity and the comparative locomotor capabilities of predator and prey.