Diving behaviour and heart rate were monitored in tufted ducks diving under circumstances which simulated various environmental conditions such as feeding under ice in winter. When distance to food was increased on a covered outdoor pond, dive duration increased proportionately, but it was calculated that time available for feeding was reduced during the longer-distance ‘extended’ dives. There was a gradual reduction in heart rate to 77.3 +/− 13.8 beats min-1, which is significantly lower than the resting value of 121.1 +/− 14.1 beats min-1, during the course of extended dives, suggesting that the ducks could gradually switch over to a ‘classical’ oxygen-conserving response during these prolonged voluntary dives. The duration of the pre-dive preparatory period was positively correlated with dive distance. When the ducks were briefly unable to resurface during an otherwise normal feeding dive in an indoor tank, a situation which may occur if they become disoriented under ice, there was an immediate switch to a full bradycardia. Reduction in heart rate during these ‘enclosed’ dives occurred only when the ducks were apparently aware of the situation and the rate of onset of bradycardia was very similar to that previously observed during involuntary submersion of tufted ducks. Minimum heart rate was the same at 46 beats min-1 after 15 s of enclosed dives and after 30 s of involuntary submersions, despite the differences in levels of activity in the two situations.

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