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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 541:265-277 (2015)  -  DOI:

Predicting prey capture rates of southern elephant seals from track and dive parameters

Jade Vacquié-Garcia*,1, Christophe Guinet1, Anne-Cécile Dragon2, Morgane Viviant1, Nory El Ksabi1, Frédéric Bailleul1

1Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé (CEBC), CNRS UPR 1934, 79360 Villiers-en-bois, France
2Collecte Localisation Satellites (CLS Argos), 8-10 rue Hermès, 31520 Ramonville-Saint-Agne, France
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: In the marine environment, track and dive parameter data (obtained using Argos or GPS tags and time–depth recorders) are commonly used to provide proxies for foraging behaviour of marine predators. However, their accuracy is rarely assessed. Recently, the addition of head-mounted accelerometers has allowed for detection of prey capture attempts (PCAs) at sea, allowing for more accurate estimations of foraging behaviour. Despite increased numbers of such devices being deployed, their use is still marginal compared with other tools which measure track and dive parameters. The objectives of our study were (1) to identify the most relevant combination of tracking and diving metrics in predicting the frequency of PCAs in female southern elephant seals Mirounga leonina from the Kerguelen Islands, and (2) to apply it to a broader range of individuals for which only tracking and diving data were available. The results of our models were consistent with the optimal foraging theory as well as the optimal diving theory. The model with the best predictive performance was the one that combined both tracking and diving information. However, most of the variability in the number of PCAs could be solely explained by changes in the diving behaviour of seals. Finally, we used the best predictive model on 20 individuals, which had not been fitted with accelerometers, to determine their main foraging zones. The behavioural indicators established in this study constitute a useful ecological tool for population monitoring and conservation purposes.

KEY WORDS: Biologging · Dive parameters · Foraging · Prey capture events · Marine predator · Southern elephant seals · Track parameters

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Cite this article as: Vacquié-Garcia J, Guinet C, Dragon AC, Viviant M, El Ksabi N, Bailleul F (2015) Predicting prey capture rates of southern elephant seals from track and dive parameters. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 541:265-277.

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