The metabolic rates of freely diving Weddell seals were measured using modern methods of on-line computer analysis coupled to oxygen consumption instrumentation. Oxygen consumption values were collected during sleep, resting periods while awake and during diving periods with the seals breathing at the surface of the water in an experimental sea-ice hole in Antarctica. Oxygen consumption during diving was not elevated over resting values but was statistically about 1.5 times greater than sleeping values. The metabolic rate of diving declined with increasing dive duration, but there was no significant difference between resting rates and rates in dives lasting up to 82 min. Swimming speed, measured with a microprocessor velocity recorder, was constant in each animal. Calculations of the aerobic dive limit of these seals were made from the oxygen consumption values and demonstrated that most dives were within this theoretical limit. The results indicate that the cost of diving is remarkably low in Weddell seals relative to other diving mammals and birds.

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