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Estimating resource acquisition and at-sea body condition of a marine predator


Schick, RS and New, LF and Thomas, L and Costa, DP and Hindell, MA and McMahon, CR and Robinson, PW and Simmons, SE and Thums, M and Harwood, J and Clark, JS, Estimating resource acquisition and at-sea body condition of a marine predator, Journal of Animal Ecology, 82, (6) pp. 1300-1315. ISSN 0021-8790 (2013) [Refereed Article]


Copyright Statement

Copyright 2013 The Authors. Journal of Animal Ecology Corpyright 2013 British Ecological Society

DOI: doi:10.1111/1365-2656.12102


Body condition plays a fundamental role in many ecological and evolutionary processes at a variety of scales and across a broad range of animal taxa. An understanding of how body condition changes at fine spatial and temporal scales as a result of interaction with the environment provides necessary information about how animals acquire resources. However, comparatively little is known about intra- and interindividual variation of condition in marine systems. Where condition has been studied, changes typically are recorded at relatively coarse time-scales. By quantifying how fine-scale interaction with the environment influences condition, we can broaden our understanding of how animals acquire resources and allocate them to body stores. Here we used a hierarchical Bayesian state-space model to estimate the body condition as measured by the size of an animal's lipid store in two closely related species of marine predator that occupy different hemispheres: northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) and southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina). The observation model linked drift dives to lipid stores. The process model quantified daily changes in lipid stores as a function of the physiological condition of the seal (lipid:lean tissue ratio, departure lipid and departure mass), its foraging location, two measures of behaviour and environmental covariates. We found that physiological condition significantly impacted lipid gain at two time-scales daily and at departure from the colony that foraging location was significantly associated with lipid gain in both species of elephant seals and that long-term behavioural phase was associated with positive lipid gain in northern and southern elephant seals. In northern elephant seals, the occurrence of short-term behavioural states assumed to represent foraging were correlated with lipid gain. Lipid gain was a function of covariates in both species. Southern elephant seals performed fewer drift dives than northern elephant seals and gained lipids at a lower rate. We have demonstrated a new way to obtain time series of body condition estimates for a marine predator at fine spatial and temporal scales. This modelling approach accounts for uncertainty at many levels and has the potential to integrate physiological and movement ecology of top predators. The observation model we used was specific to elephant seals, but the process model can readily be applied to other species, providing an opportunity to understand how animals respond to their environment at a fine spatial scale. Β© 2013 The Authors. Journal of Animal Ecology Β© 2013 British Ecological Society.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Bayesian, state space model, resource acquisition
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology)
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Coastal and estuarine systems and management
Objective Field:Assessment and management of coastal and estuarine ecosystems
UTAS Author:Hindell, MA (Professor Mark Hindell)
ID Code:89057
Year Published:2013
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (A00104696)
Web of Science® Times Cited:34
Deposited By:IMAS Research and Education Centre
Deposited On:2014-02-24
Last Modified:2017-10-31
Downloads:352 View Download Statistics

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