A lifetime at depth: vertical distribution of southern elephant seals in the water column


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tmcintyre [ at ] zoology.up.ac.za

Abstract

Although numerous studies have addressed the migration and dive behaviour of southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina), questions remain about their habita use in the marine environment. We report on the vertical use of the water column in the species and the potential lifetime implications for southern elephant seals from Marion Island. Long-term mark-resight data were used to complement vertical habitat use for 35 known individuals tagged with satellite-relay data loggers, resulting in cumulative depth use extrapolated for each individual over its estimated lifespan. Seals spent on average 77.59% of their lives diving at sea, 7.06% at the sea surface, and 15.35% hauled out on land. Some segregation was observed in maximum dive depths and depth use between male and female animalsmales evidently being physiologically more capable of exploiting increased depths. Females and males spent 86.98 and 80.89% of their lives at sea, respectively. While at sea, all animals spent more time between 300 and 400 m depth, than any other depth category. Males and females spent comparable percentages of



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ISI/Scopus peer-reviewed
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Published
Eprint ID
20936
DOI 10.1007/s00300-010-0782-3

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McIntyre, T. , de Bruyn, P. J. N. , Ansorge, I. J. , Bester, M. N. , Bornemann, H. , Plötz, J. and Tosh, C. A. (2010): A lifetime at depth: vertical distribution of southern elephant seals in the water column , Polar Biology . doi: 10.1007/s00300-010-0782-3


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