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Foraging ecology of a generalist predator, the female New Zealand fur seal


Harcourt, RG and Bradshaw, CJA and Dickson, K and Davis, LS, Foraging ecology of a generalist predator, the female New Zealand fur seal, Marine Ecology Progress Series, 227 pp. 11-24. ISSN 0171-8630 (2002) [Refereed Article]

DOI: doi:10.3354/meps227011


This study examined how diet, foraging location and diving behaviour of female New Zealand fur seals Arctocephalus forsteri at Otago Peninsula, New Zealand (45° 52′ S, 170° 44′ E), varied in relation to prey abundance among seasons in 1994 and 1995. Time-depth recorders measured the diving behaviour of 24 lactating female fur seals, during summer, autumn or winter of 1994 and summer and autumn of 1995. Foraging locations were obtained by deploying satellite transmitters in summer, autumn and winter of 1994 only. Estimated biomass of prey items was determined from 690 scats and 166 regurgitates collected over summer, autumn and winter of both years, and compared with abundance data from research trawls in the same area. Foraging trip duration increased during the cooler seasons. Female fur seals showed a clear bout structure in dive behaviour, with the relative proportion of 3 main bout types (Long, Shallow, Deep) varying with season. Time between bouts (IBI) and bout duration varied with season, suggesting that prey distribution and prey encounter rate also varied. Linear discriminant analysis of the dive and foraging trip characteristics of individual females demonstrated clear seasonal differences. Females foraged on or near the continental slope in summer and farther offshore in autumn. Satellite telemetry locations and diet suggest principally inshore foraging during winter. Fur seals ate predominantly arrow squid Nototodarus sloanii during summer and autumn of both years, although fish, particularly myctophids, were persistent in the diet. Arrow squid were less common in winter when diet was more varied, and an inshore, benthic fish, ahuru Auchenoceros punctatus was dominant. There was no relationship between the annual changes in abundance of major prey species as measured by research trawls and their occurrence in seal diet. Overall, changes in dive behaviour may reflect changes in prey selection as prey abundance and availability change among seasons.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Environmental management
Research Field:Wildlife and habitat management
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Coastal and estuarine systems and management
Objective Field:Assessment and management of coastal and estuarine ecosystems
UTAS Author:Bradshaw, CJA (Dr Corey Bradshaw)
ID Code:25174
Year Published:2002
Web of Science® Times Cited:79
Deposited By:Zoology
Deposited On:2002-08-01
Last Modified:2011-08-02

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