Spatial and temporal variation in the diet of a high trophic level predator, the Australian fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus)
Hume, F and Hindell, MA and Pemberton, D and Gales, R, Spatial and temporal variation in the diet of a high trophic level predator, the Australian fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus), Marine Biology, 144, (3) pp. 407-415. ISSN 0025-3162 (2004) [Refereed Article]
This study quantifies the manner in which Australian fur seals, Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus, use their prey in a spatial and temporal context. We analysed 977 scat and 66 regurgitate samples collected from Tasmanian breeding colonies and haul-outs between 1994 and 2000. Diagnostic prey remains identified in the scats represented 35 fish taxa and 8 cephalopod taxa. The main taxa identified in scats, where frequency of occurrence was ≥10%, were leatherjacket species (family Monocanthidae), redbait (Emmelichthys nitidus), barracouta (Thyrsites atun), jack mackerel (Trachurus declivis) and red cod (Pseudophysis bachus). Regurgitates were dominated by cephalopods, primarily Gould's squid (Nototodarus gouldi), Octopus maorum, O. berrima/pallidus and Sepia apama. Discriminant function analyses indicated that there were generally no significant differences in the composition of the diet between colonies within a year, suggesting that prey distribution is fairly uniform throughout Bass Strait at those time scales. The diet at breeding colonies, however, exhibited significant inter- and intra-annual variation, determined by the presence of several key taxa, such as barracouta and a species of scorpionfish (family Scorpaenidae). The diet composition also varied regionally, between Bass Strait and southern Tasmania in spring 1999 and autumn 2000, with redbait, barracouta and a species of scorpionfish identified as the main taxa contributing to this difference. Redbait occurred in the diet only in southern Tasmania, whereas barracouta and scorpionfish occurred only in Bass Strait.