Marine Biology

, Volume 144, Issue 4, pp 813–827 | Cite as

To the bottom of the heart: cloacal movement as an index of cardiac frequency, respiration and digestive evacuation in penguins

  • R. P. WilsonEmail author
  • A. Scolaro
  • F. Quintana
  • U. Siebert
  • M. thor Straten
  • K. Mills
  • I. Zimmer
  • N. Liebsch
  • A. Steinfurth
  • G. Spindler
  • G. Müller
Research Article


A system is presented which uses a Hall sensor and an adjacent magnet, attached close to the cloaca of penguins, to record defecation, respiration and heart rates for both free-living birds and those in captivity. The output of the Hall sensor depends on a magnetic field, the strength of which is influenced in the presented scenario by the proximity of the magnet, which varies with movement of the cloaca. The elasticity of the cloaca results in minute, but perceptible, movements associated with the heart, respiration and defecation, although placement of the magnet and sensor is critical, and not all parameters can be measured all of the time. The system, incorporating a logger that can record at frequencies of 50 Hz, was tested on 17 captive and 4 free-living Magellanic penguins, Spheniscus magellanicus, in Argentina. It showed increased defecation rate associated with feeding, the expected trends in bradycardia and tachycardia associated with diving, and appeared to record some movement of air sacs associated with breathing. The concept of measuring minute changes in relative exterior body positions as a cue to internal processes may be important in future studies for both free-living and captive animals, particularly since it is non-invasive and relatively easy to deploy.


Sensor Output Active Face Hall Sensor Cyanoacrylate Glue Defecation Event 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was funded by the ICSU and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. Permission to carry out the work was granted by the Consejo Agrario de Santa Cruz and the Centro Patagonico, Chubut, both in Argentina. We are particularly grateful to Silvina S. for her constant support during this work, to Hagenbek’s Tierpark for allowing us to work with their Humboldt penguins and to Vaccuumschmelze GmbH for help, as always, with the magnets.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. P. Wilson
    • 1
    Email author
  • A. Scolaro
    • 2
  • F. Quintana
    • 2
  • U. Siebert
    • 3
  • M. thor Straten
    • 1
  • K. Mills
    • 4
  • I. Zimmer
    • 1
  • N. Liebsch
    • 1
  • A. Steinfurth
    • 1
  • G. Spindler
    • 5
  • G. Müller
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für MeereskundeKielGermany
  2. 2.Centro PatagonicoPuerto MadrynArgentina
  3. 3.Forschung und Technologie ZentrumBüsumGermany
  4. 4.PRBO Conservation ScienceMarine Ecology DivisionUSA
  5. 5.KielGermany

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