Marine mammals have adapted the ability to not only survive, but also thrive in an environment that most mammals are incredibly ill-adapted for. Extreme pressure and cold are just two of the factors that these animals deal with in order to hunt and forage. As survival in any environment is dependant on balancing the energetic costs of acquiring food and the caloric value of the food ingested, detailed insight into such foraging behavior would shed light on some of the fundamental adaptations that allow marine mammals to survive in such a challenging environment. Yet, due to the cryptic nature of their hunting activities, we still do not know the details of locating, pursuing, and capturing prey in 3-dimensions and at depth.
Recently, new opportunities have emerged with breakthroughs in miniaturized accelerometer instrumentation that can be deployed on free-ranging mammals. These instruments will allow us to record and study how they move in an effort to understand how they maximize foraging efficiency through unique physiological adaptations. When combined with metabolic analysis through open-flow respirometry, we can also examine the energetic cost of both stroking and 3-dimensional maneuvering underwater.