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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 394:263-276 (2009)  -  DOI:

Bathymetry and frontal system interactions influence seasonal foraging movements of lactating subantarctic fur seals from Marion Island

P. J. Nico de Bruyn1,*, Cheryl A. Tosh1, W. Chris Oosthuizen1, Marthán N. Bester1, John P. Y. Arnould2

1Mammal Research Institute, Department of Zoology & Entomology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0002, South Africa
2School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, Victoria 3125, Australia

ABSTRACT: Sixteen lactating subantarctic fur seals Arctocephalus tropicalis were satellite-tracked during the winter of 2006 (n = 6), summer of 2006/07 (n = 6) and autumn/winter (n = 4) of 2007, from Marion Island, Southern Ocean. Despite varied individual movement patterns, a favoured foraging area lay to the northeast of the island. In contrast to findings for populations at similar latitudes, seals from Marion Island did not undertake short overnight foraging trips, but trips consistently went beyond 300 km from the island. This aligns with the at-sea duration of lactating seals’ foraging trips from temperate Amsterdam Island, but differs from subantarctic Crozet and Macquarie islands. Time spent at sea, maximum distances travelled and movement variation of tracks from the island varied seasonally. Faecal analysis suggests the diet comprised primarily myctophid fish with limited seasonal variation. Well-defined areas of restricted movement coincided with significant bathymetric features to the west/northwest of the Crozet Plateau, with the Del Caño Rise clearly being important. Positive and negative sea-surface height anomalies (compared to the mean) appeared to be preferred by most seals across seasons. Higher summer sea-surface temperatures correlated with the movements of some seals. Higher chlorophyll a concentrations dictated transit and foraging areas during summer. Bathymetrically influenced oceanographic variables likely explain these preferred long-distance eastward movements. The Îles Crozet and Marion Island subantarctic fur seals differ in their foraging ecology despite being neighbours. Conversely, the subantarctic fur seal populations from the distant Amsterdam and Marion islands appear to be similarly influenced by such environmental factors.

KEY WORDS: Otariid · Arctocephalus tropicalis · Foraging ecology · Satellite telemetry · Oceano-graphy · Area-restricted movement · Diet · Del Caño Rise

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Cite this article as: de Bruyn PJN, Tosh CA, Oosthuizen WC, Bester MN, Arnould JPY (2009) Bathymetry and frontal system interactions influence seasonal foraging movements of lactating subantarctic fur seals from Marion Island. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 394:263-276.

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