Recording the free-living behaviour of small-bodied, shallow-diving animals with data loggers.
Hays GC., Forman DW., Harrington LA., Harrington AL., MacDonald DW., Righton D.
1. Time-depth data recorders (TDRs) have been widely used to explore the behaviour of relatively large, deep divers. However, little is known about the dive behaviour of small, shallow divers such as semi-aquatic mammals. 2. We used high-resolution TDRs to record the diving behaviour of American mink Mustela vison (weight of individuals 580-1275 g) in rivers in Oxfordshire (UK) between December 2005 and March 2006. 3. Dives to > 0.2 m were measured in all individuals (n = 6). Modal dive depth and duration were 0.3 m and 10 s, respectively, although dives up to 3 m and 60 s in duration were recorded. Dive duration increased with dive depth. 4. Temperature data recorded by TDRs covaried with diving behaviour: they were relatively cold (modal temperature 4-6 degrees C across individuals) when mink were diving and relatively warm (modal temperature 24-36 degrees C across individuals) when mink were not diving. 5. Individuals differed hugely in their use of rivers, reflecting foraging plasticity across both terrestrial and aquatic environments. For some individuals there was < 1 dive per day while for others there was > 100 dives per day. 6. We have shown it is now possible to record the diving behaviour of small free-living animals that only dive a few tens of centimetres, opening up the way for a new range of TDR studies on shallow diving species.