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Marine habitats of juvenile southern elephant seals from Marion Island

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Citation:
Tosh, C. A. , Bornemann, H. , van den Hoff, J. , Stewart, B. , Plötz, J. and Bester, M. N. (2012): Marine habitats of juvenile southern elephant seals from Marion Island , SCAR XXXII & Open Science Conference, Portland, OR, USA, 13 July 2012 - 25 July 2012 .
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Abstract:

Marine mammals forage in dynamic environments characterized by variables that are continuously changing in relation to large-scale oceanographic processes. The ability of naïve animals to forage in these conditions poses interesting questions about how they might perceive their environments. By analysing the tracks of juvenile southern elephant seals (n=16) from Marion Island (46°54’S, 37°45’E), Southern Indian Ocean, we see that the proximity to frontal zones has a positive influence on the probability of searching behaviour and that bathymetric features such as the South West Indian Ridge increases the probability of transiting behaviour. State-space modelling techniques are used to interpolate tracks over regular time intervals and predict behavioural states for locations based on variations in turning angle and speed. A mixed modelling approach is used to analyse the behavioural response of juvenile southern elephant seals to sea-surface temperature, sea-surface height anomalies as well as proximity to frontal and bathymetric features. This research highlights the importance of frontal features and sea-surface height anomalies for potential juvenile southern elephant seal feeding areas, and provides further evidence of the importance of the area west of Marion Island for higher trophic level predators.

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