Published online by Cambridge University Press: 19 April 2011
The present knowledge of pinnipeds’ distribution is principally based on the location of breeding colonies. Several species of pinnipeds have shown the ability to undertake long travels to different and unusual locations, where they are frequently interpreted as vagrants. A total of seven species of pinnipeds are known to occur along the Brazilian coast: four belong to the family Otariidae and three to the family Phocidae. From 1954 to 2008 a total of 54 records of pinnipeds were reviewed for the coast of Rio de Janeiro State, ten of them were new records, representing 18.2% of the total. The most common species registered in the study area was Arctocephalus tropicalis (49.1%; N = 27) followed by Mirounga leonina (20%; N = 11). The other species recorded were Lobodon carcinophaga, Otaria flavescens, Arctocephalus australis and Hydrurga leptonyx. From 51 pinniped specimens with information on periods of occurrence, 76.5% (N = 39) were reported during winter, and the other 12 specimens were equally distributed over the three other seasons. Most sub-Antarctic fur seals (88%) and southern elephant seals (83%) were males. The majority of the species were classified as sexually immature. The seasonal pattern of the pinnipeds found on the coast of Rio de Janeiro State is related to the intensive northward flow of the Malvinas/Falkland Current during winter. In addition, the potential to swim long distances together with the lack of physical barriers in the marine environment could help the dispersion of the seals to distant regions far from their traditional breeding or feeding regions.
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