A model to estimate seabird field metabolic rates

Ruth E. Dunn, Craig R. White, Jonathan A. Green

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For free-ranging animals, field metabolic rate (FMR) is the sum of their energy expenditure over a specified period. This quantity is a key component of ecological processes at every biological level. We applied a phylogenetically informed meta-analytical approach to identify the large-scale determinants of FMR in seabirds during the breeding season. Using data from 64 studies of energetics in 47 species, we created a model to estimate FMR for any seabird population. We found that FMR was positively influenced by body mass and colony latitude and that it increased throughout the breeding season from incubation to brood to crèche. FMR was not impacted by colony-relative predation pressure or species average brood size. Based on this model, we present an app through which users can generate estimates of FMR for any population of breeding seabird. We encourage the use of this app to complement behavioural studies and increase understanding of how energetic demands influence the role of seabirds as driving components of marine systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20180190
Number of pages4
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Breeding season
  • Energetics
  • Energy expenditure
  • Field metabolic rate
  • Meta-analysis
  • Seabirds

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