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Circumpolar habitat use in the southern elephant seal: implications for foraging success and population trajectories

Circumpolar habitat use in the southern elephant seal: implications for foraging success and population trajectories
Circumpolar habitat use in the southern elephant seal: implications for foraging success and population trajectories
In the Southern Ocean, wide-ranging predators offer the opportunity to quantify how animals respond to differences in the environment because their behavior and population trends are an integrated signal of prevailing conditions within multiple marine habitats. Southern elephant seals in particular, can provide useful insights due to their circumpolar distribution, their long and distant migrations and their performance of extended bouts of deep diving. Furthermore, across their range, elephant seal populations have very different population trends. In this study, we present a data set from the International Polar Year project; Marine Mammals Exploring the Oceans Pole to Pole for southern elephant seals, in which a large number of instruments (N = 287) deployed on animals, encompassing a broad circum-Antarctic geographic extent, collected in situ ocean data and at-sea foraging metrics that explicitly link foraging behavior and habitat structure in time and space. Broadly speaking, the seals foraged in two habitats, the relatively shallow waters of the Antarctic continental shelf and the Kerguelen Plateau and deep open water regions. Animals of both sexes were more likely to exhibit area-restricted search (ARS) behavior rather than transit in shelf habitats. While Antarctic shelf waters can be regarded as prime habitat for both sexes, female seals tend to move northwards with the advance of sea ice in the late autumn or early winter. The water masses used by the seals also influenced their behavioral mode, with female ARS behavior being most likely in modified Circumpolar Deepwater or northerly Modified Shelf Water, both of which tend to be associated with the outer reaches of the Antarctic Continental Shelf. The combined effects of (1) the differing habitat quality, (2) differing responses to encroaching ice as the winter progresses among colonies, (3) differing distances between breeding and haul-out sites and high quality habitats, and (4) differing long-term regional trends in sea ice extent can explain the differing population trends observed among elephant seal colonies.
foraging behavior, Mirounga leonina, physical oceanography, population status, sea ice, Southern Ocean water masses
2150-8925
e01213
Hindell, Mark A.
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McMahon, Clive R.
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Bester, Marthán N.
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Boehme, Lars
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Costa, Daniel
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Fedak, Mike A.
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Guinet, Christophe
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Herraiz Borreguero, Laura
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Harcourt, Robert G.
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Huckstadt, Luis
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Kovacs, Kit M.
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Lydersen, Christian
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McIntyre, Trevor
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Muelbert, Monica
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Patterson, Toby
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Roquet, Fabien
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Williams, Guy
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Charrassin, Jean-Benoit
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Hindell, Mark A.
739ed5a3-c27b-4a56-87e2-e17459cfb4c1
McMahon, Clive R.
330561f0-1ee8-476b-853c-a1440856eb43
Bester, Marthán N.
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Boehme, Lars
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Costa, Daniel
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Fedak, Mike A.
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Guinet, Christophe
1e1d8a73-1f14-440a-87fe-11144835cd9d
Herraiz Borreguero, Laura
f4573b48-5d8c-403f-9460-5902fe5fdeb3
Harcourt, Robert G.
a58471ca-b1b7-4821-b528-98b546c350cf
Huckstadt, Luis
73702ea8-a970-4ebe-8a8a-494b5bc1da02
Kovacs, Kit M.
3a35e775-8028-4f93-922c-1aa502e6ff47
Lydersen, Christian
1196750c-7d6b-423e-b918-9b8725fa364b
McIntyre, Trevor
4190958c-c3a0-424f-9260-907dc3ed96ac
Muelbert, Monica
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Patterson, Toby
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Roquet, Fabien
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Williams, Guy
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Charrassin, Jean-Benoit
772bdc4e-9145-4d4b-b66e-516c92472e58

Hindell, Mark A., McMahon, Clive R., Bester, Marthán N., Boehme, Lars, Costa, Daniel, Fedak, Mike A., Guinet, Christophe, Herraiz Borreguero, Laura, Harcourt, Robert G., Huckstadt, Luis, Kovacs, Kit M., Lydersen, Christian, McIntyre, Trevor, Muelbert, Monica, Patterson, Toby, Roquet, Fabien, Williams, Guy and Charrassin, Jean-Benoit (2016) Circumpolar habitat use in the southern elephant seal: implications for foraging success and population trajectories. Ecosphere, 7 (5), e01213. (doi:10.1002/ecs2.1213).

Record type: Article

Abstract

In the Southern Ocean, wide-ranging predators offer the opportunity to quantify how animals respond to differences in the environment because their behavior and population trends are an integrated signal of prevailing conditions within multiple marine habitats. Southern elephant seals in particular, can provide useful insights due to their circumpolar distribution, their long and distant migrations and their performance of extended bouts of deep diving. Furthermore, across their range, elephant seal populations have very different population trends. In this study, we present a data set from the International Polar Year project; Marine Mammals Exploring the Oceans Pole to Pole for southern elephant seals, in which a large number of instruments (N = 287) deployed on animals, encompassing a broad circum-Antarctic geographic extent, collected in situ ocean data and at-sea foraging metrics that explicitly link foraging behavior and habitat structure in time and space. Broadly speaking, the seals foraged in two habitats, the relatively shallow waters of the Antarctic continental shelf and the Kerguelen Plateau and deep open water regions. Animals of both sexes were more likely to exhibit area-restricted search (ARS) behavior rather than transit in shelf habitats. While Antarctic shelf waters can be regarded as prime habitat for both sexes, female seals tend to move northwards with the advance of sea ice in the late autumn or early winter. The water masses used by the seals also influenced their behavioral mode, with female ARS behavior being most likely in modified Circumpolar Deepwater or northerly Modified Shelf Water, both of which tend to be associated with the outer reaches of the Antarctic Continental Shelf. The combined effects of (1) the differing habitat quality, (2) differing responses to encroaching ice as the winter progresses among colonies, (3) differing distances between breeding and haul-out sites and high quality habitats, and (4) differing long-term regional trends in sea ice extent can explain the differing population trends observed among elephant seal colonies.

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Accepted/In Press date: 7 April 2016
e-pub ahead of print date: 26 May 2016
Published date: May 2016
Keywords: foraging behavior, Mirounga leonina, physical oceanography, population status, sea ice, Southern Ocean water masses
Organisations: Physical Oceanography

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 398657
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/398657
ISSN: 2150-8925
PURE UUID: 24a6c553-43e7-4abc-9d2a-74c37bd1278d

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Date deposited: 28 Jul 2016 14:48
Last modified: 27 Apr 2022 07:31

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Contributors

Author: Mark A. Hindell
Author: Clive R. McMahon
Author: Marthán N. Bester
Author: Lars Boehme
Author: Daniel Costa
Author: Mike A. Fedak
Author: Christophe Guinet
Author: Laura Herraiz Borreguero
Author: Robert G. Harcourt
Author: Luis Huckstadt
Author: Kit M. Kovacs
Author: Christian Lydersen
Author: Trevor McIntyre
Author: Monica Muelbert
Author: Toby Patterson
Author: Fabien Roquet
Author: Guy Williams
Author: Jean-Benoit Charrassin

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