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Existing methods of dive analysis, developed for fully aquatic animals, tend to focus on frequency of behaviors rather than transitions between them. They, therefore, do not account for the variability of behavior of semiaquatic animals, and the switching between terrestrial and aquatic environments. This is the first study to use hidden Markov models (HMM) to divide dives of a semiaquatic animal into clusters and thus identify the environmental predictors of transition between behavioral modes. We used 18 existing data sets of the dives of 14 American mink (Neovison vison) fitted with time-depth recorders in lowland England. Using HMM, we identified 3 behavioral states (1, temporal cluster of dives; 2, more loosely aggregated diving within aquatic activity; and 3, terminal dive of a cluster or a single, isolated dive). Based on the higher than expected proportion of dives in State 1, we conclude that mink tend to dive in clusters. We found no relationship between temperature and the proportion of dives in each state or between temperature and the rate of transition between states, meaning that in our study area, mink are apparently not adopting different diving strategies at different temperatures. Transition analysis between states has shown that there is no correlation between ambient temperature and the likelihood of mink switching from one state to another, that is, changing foraging modes. The variables provided good discrimination and grouped into consistent states well, indicating promise for further application of HMM and other state transition analyses in studies of semiaquatic animals. © 2012 The Author.

Original publication




Journal article


Behavioral Ecology

Publication Date





659 - 667