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Foraging ecology of southern elephant seals in relation to the bathymetry and productivity of the Southern Ocean

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 May 2004

B. J. McConnell
Affiliation:
Sea Mammal Research Unit, Natural Environment Research Council, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK
C. Chambers
Affiliation:
Sea Mammal Research Unit, Natural Environment Research Council, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK
M. A. Fedak
Affiliation:
Sea Mammal Research Unit, Natural Environment Research Council, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK

Abstract

Southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) are among the most proficient of mammalian divers and are a major component of the Antarctic food web. Yet little is known of their movements or interaction with their oceanic environment. Specially designed satellite-link data loggers allowed us to visualize the 3-D movements of elephant seals as they swam rapidly from South Georgia to distant (up to 2650 km) areas of Antarctic continental shelf. One seal dived continuously to the sea bed in one small area for a month, implying consumption of benthic prey. Dives here were shorter even though average swimming velocity was lower. It is suggested that the physiological requirements of feeding and digestion reduced the aerobic dive limit. Long distance travel to relocatable hydrographic or topographical features, such as shelf breaks, may allow large predators to locate prey more consistently than from mid-ocean searches.

Type
Papers—Life Sciences and Oceanography
Copyright
© Antarctic Science Ltd 1992

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