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Dangerous dive cycles and the proverbial ostrich


  • Alejandro Frid,

  • Michael R. Heithaus,

  • Lawrence M. Dill

A. Frid ( and L. M. Dill, Dept of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser Univ., Burnaby, BC, Canada, V5A 1S6. Present address for AF: 352 Creek Road, RR1 I27, Bowen Island, BC, Canada, V0N 1G0. – M. R. Heithaus, Dept of Biological Sciences, Marine Biology Program, Florida International Univ., Biscayne Bay Campus AC1, North Miami, FL 33181, USA.


Data rarely are available to address the level of predation risk faced by diving animals in different parts of the water column. Consequently, most published research on diving behaviour implicitly assumes – like the proverbial ostrich – that ‘unseen’ predators are functionally unimportant. We argue that failure to consider diving in a predation risk framework may have precluded many insights into the ecology of aquatic foragers that breathe air. Using existing literature and a simple model, we suggest that fear from submerged predators in several systems might be influencing patch residence time, and therefore the duration of other dive cycle components. These analyses, along with an earlier model of predation risk faced by diving animals at the surface, suggest that dive cycle organisation can be modified to increase safety from predators, but only at the cost of reduced energy gain. Theoretical arguments presented here can seed hypotheses on factors contributing to population declines of diving species. For instance, adjustments to the dive cycle that reduce predation risk might be unaffordable if resources are scarce. Thus, if animals are to avoid imminent starvation or substantial loss of reproductive potential, resource declines might indirectly increase predation rates by limiting the extent to which dive cycles can deviate from those that would maximize energy gain. We hope that ideas presented in this paper stimulate other researchers to further develop theory and test predictions on how predation risk might influence diving behaviour and its ecological consequences.