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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 481:269-287 (2013)  -  DOI:

Temporal variation in western Hudson Bay ringed seal Phoca hispida diet in relation to environment

Magaly Chambellant1,4,*, Ian Stirling2,3, Steven H. Ferguson1,4

1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3T 2N2, Canada
2Wildlife Research Division, Science and Technology Branch, Environment Canada, Edmonton, Alberta T6H 3S5, Canada
3Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E9, Canada
4Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3T 2N6, Canada

ABSTRACT: We present the first study of ringed seal Phoca hispida feeding habits in western Hudson Bay (WHB) using stomach content analysis and stable isotope analysis (SIA). Ringed seals were sampled during 9 Inuit subsistence harvests in Arviat, Nunavut, Canada, over the period 1991 to 2006. During the open-water season in summer and fall, ringed seals fed mostly on sand lance Ammodytes spp. In the spring, when annual sea ice was still present, Arctic cod Boreogadus saida and capelin Mallotus villosus were also important in the diet, and consumption of invertebrates was higher than in the open-water period. From SIA, adult ringed seals exploited slightly more benthic habitats than immature individuals. Sand lances were the main prey consumed throughout the study period, but strong interannual variation occurred. When break-up of the sea ice in spring was relatively late, as in the early 1990s, ringed seal consumption of sand lance and total energy input was lower than in subsequent years of the study, despite a higher importance of sculpins (Cottidae) in the diet. The consumption of other fish species changed in the 2000s: Arctic cod declined whereas capelin increased in importance. Our results suggest that ringed seals in WHB are sand lance specialists, and their population dynamics are, at times, strongly regulated by bottom-up processes.

KEY WORDS: Bottom-up regulation · Feeding habit · Stable isotope · Stomach content · Index of global importance · Ammodytes spp.

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Cite this article as: Chambellant M, Stirling I, Ferguson SH (2013) Temporal variation in western Hudson Bay ringed seal Phoca hispida diet in relation to environment. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 481:269-287.

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