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Dolphin Wearable Could Find Cost of Habitat Disturbance

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A dolphin wearing the wearable.

The biologging tag attaches to the animal with suction cups, and can measure the sounds the animal hears, sounds the animal uses to communicate and echolocate, and its motion.

Credit: Alex Shorter/University of Michigan

Custom biologging tags have allowed researchers at the University of Michigan (UM) and other institutions to measure dolphins' energetic cost of swimming.

The researchers conducted repeatable swimming trials over a range of speeds from multiple animals to generate the data they needed to estimate how much energy the animals used as they swam.

Marine mammal specialists trained the dolphins to wear the tags during lap trials and periods of free swimming. The tag sits between the blowhole and dorsal fin of the dolphin, attached with suction cups, where it noninvasively measures speed, temperature, pressure, and movement.

Said UM's Alex Shorter, “Our goal is to use tag data to estimate foraging events, how many fish were consumed during a day, and connect that to estimates of how much energy dolphins use during the movement required to catch those fish. This is important for conservation because we can then use our approach to estimate energetic costs when these animals are disturbed."

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