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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 447:243-257 (2012)  -  DOI:

Horizontal and vertical movements as predictors of foraging success in a marine predator

Anne-Cécile Dragon1,2,3,*, Avner Bar-Hen2, Pascal Monestiez4, Christophe Guinet1

1CEBC-CNRS, 79360 Villiers en Bois, France
2MAP5-CNRS, 45 rue des Saints-Pères, 75270 Paris Cedex 06, France
3LOCEAN-UPMC, 4 place Jussieu, boite 100, 75252 Paris Cedex 05, France
4BioSP-INRA, Domaine Saint-Paul, Site Agroparc, 84914 Avignon, France

ABSTRACT: With technical advances in wildlife telemetry, the study of cryptic predators’ responses to prey distribution has been revolutionised. In the case of marine predators, high resolution tagging devices have been developed recently to collect precise diving datasets covering extended periods of time. In this study, we investigated changes in the horizontal movements and diving patterns of a marine predator, the southern elephant seal, at fine temporal and spatial scales. Satellite tracking data collected for 9 seals were processed with switching state-space models. Seal body condition, as a proxy for foraging success, was estimated through changes in drift rate from Time Depth Recorder (TDR) data. We identified (1) statistically distinct behavioural modes from the tracking data (intensive vs. extensive foraging modes) and (2) distinct dive classes from the TDR diving data (drift, exploratory, shallow active and deep active dives). Active dives, associated with vertical foraging and chasing, were more numerous when the seals were in intensive foraging mode. Improved body condition and mass gain of seals were also associated with the intensive foraging mode and, within the vertical dimension, with sets of highly active dives. In conclusion, proportions of dive classes varied according to seals’ horizontal behaviour. Intensive foraging detected from surface tracking data is a good predictor of diving activity and foraging success occurring in the vertical dimension.

KEY WORDS: Area-restricted search · Dive classification · Drift dive · Fine-scale behaviour · Movement analysis

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Cite this article as: Dragon AC, Bar-Hen A, Monestiez P, Guinet C (2012) Horizontal and vertical movements as predictors of foraging success in a marine predator. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 447:243-257.

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