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Weaning mass variation of southern elephant seals at King George Island and its possible relationship with “El Niño” and “La Niña” Events

  • D.F. Vergani (a1), Z.B. Stanganelli (a2) and D. Bilenca (a3)

Abstract

Possible effects of “El Niño” Southern Oscillation (ENSO) components “El Niño”and “La Niña“ on populations of southern elephant seals, Mirounga leonina L., are considered in this study. Information on pup weaning mass, collected at King George Island, South Shetland Islands, over a ten-year period (1985–94) was analysed with respect to the occurrence of ENSO and recent research in feeding ecology of this population in the Bellinghausen Sea. Weaning mass of elephant seals was found to be higher during “La Niña” and a lower during “El Niño”. Differences in weaning mass between sexes varied in different proportions during El Niño and La Niña. The teleconnection between tropical Pacific anomalies and the Bellinghausen Sea deserves further research, and our results suggest a way to study this phenomenon using data of elephant seal pups weaning mass as indicators of changes in food availability.

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