The energy expenditure of free-living fur seals and sea lions is difficult to measure directly, but may be indirectly derived from flipper stroke rate. We filmed 10 captive otariids swimming with accelerometers either attached to a harness (Daily Diary: sampling frequency 32 Hz, N=4) or taped to the fur (G6a+: 25 Hz, N=6). We used down sampling to derive four recording rates from each accelerometer (Daily Diary: 32, 16, 8, 4 Hz; G6a+: 25, 20, 10, 5 Hz). For each of these sampling frequencies, we derived 20 combinations of two parameters (RMW, the window size used to calculate the running mean; and m, the minimum number of points smaller than a local maxima used to detect a peak) from the dynamic acceleration of x, z and x+z, to estimate stroke rate from the accelerometers. These estimates differed by up to ∼20% in comparison to the actual number of foreflipper strokes counted from videos. RMW and the choice of axis used to make the calculations (x, z or x+z) had little effect on the overall differences, though the variability was reduced when using x+z. The best m varied depending on the axis used and the sampling frequency; a larger m was needed for higher sampling frequencies. This study demonstrates that when parameters are appropriately tuned, accelerometers are a simple yet valid tool for estimating the stroke rates of swimming otariids.
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- stroke rate
- swim mechanics