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Contrasting behavior between two populations of an ice-obligate predator in East Antarctica

Citation

Heerah, K and Hindell, M and Andrew-Goff, V and Field, I and McMahon, CR and Charrassin, J-B, Contrasting behavior between two populations of an ice-obligate predator in East Antarctica, Ecology and Evolution, 7, (2) pp. 606-618. ISSN 2045-7758 (2017) [Refereed Article]


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Copyright 2016 The Authors Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

DOI: doi:10.1002/ece3.2652

Abstract

The Austral autumn–winter is a critical period for capital breeders such as Weddell seals that must optimize resource acquisition and storage to provision breeding in the subsequent spring. However, how Weddell seals find food in the winter months remains poorly documented. We equipped adult Weddell seals after their annual molt with satellite-relayed data loggers at two sites in East Antarctica: Dumont D'Urville (n = 12, DDU) and Davis (n = 20). We used binomial generalized mixed-effect models to investigate Weddell seals’ behavioral response (i.e., "hunting" vs. "transit") to physical aspects of their environment (e.g., ice concentration). Weddell seal foraging was concentrated to within 5 km of a breathing hole, and they appear to move between holes as local food is depleted. There were regional differences in behavior so that seals at Davis traveled greater distances (three times more) and spent less time in hunting mode (half the time) than seals at DDU. Despite these differences, hunting dives at both locations were pelagic, concentrated in areas of high ice concentration, and over areas of complex bathymetry. There was also a seasonal change in diving behavior from transiting early in the season to more hunting during winter. Our observations suggest that Weddell seal foraging behavior is plastic and that they respond behaviorally to changes in their environment to maximize food acquisition and storage. Such plasticity is a hallmark of animals that live in very dynamic environments such as the high Antarctic where resources are unpredictable.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:foraging ecology
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl. Marine Ichthyology)
Objective Division:Environment
Objective Group:Ecosystem Assessment and Management
Objective Field:Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic Environments
Author:Heerah, K (Ms Karine Heerah)
Author:Hindell, M (Professor Mark Hindell)
Author:Andrew-Goff, V (Ms Virginia Andrews-Goff)
ID Code:115542
Year Published:2017
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (DP0342714)
Deposited By:Centre for Ecology and Biodiversity
Deposited On:2017-03-30
Last Modified:2017-04-06
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