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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 615:189-204 (2019)  -  DOI:

Influence of shelf oceanographic variability on alternate foraging strategies in long-nosed fur seals

Dahlia Foo1,*, Clive McMahon2, Mark Hindell1, Simon Goldsworthy3, Fred Bailleul3

1Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania 7004, Australia
2Sydney Institute of Marine Science, Mosman, New South Wales 2088, Australia
3Aquatic Sciences Centre, South Australian Research and Development Institute, West Beach, South Australia 5024, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Central place foragers often change their foraging behaviour in response to changes in prey availability in the environment. Lactating long-nosed fur seals Arctocephalus forsteri (LNFS) at Cape Gantheaume in South Australia have been observed to display alternate foraging strategies, whereby they forage on the shelf in summer and switch to oceanic foraging in winter. We investigated the relationship between changes in shelf summertime upwelling and the timing and variability when females switch from predominantly shelf to oceanic foraging. Geolocation tags were deployed on females from summer to winter in 2016 and 2017, giving us longitudinal tracks over the transition period. The timing of switching from shelf to oceanic foraging was primarily driven by seasonal oceanographic changes on the shelf—specifically when the strength of the seasonal localised upwelling began to decline. The individual variability in the timing of the switch was driven by the strength of the coastal upwelling, with variability being greater in years when upwelling strength was weaker. By comparing our results to those of previous studies on the same colony, we found qualitative evidence that inter-annual environmental variability likely influences whether individuals display a single or multiple foraging strategies. This further highlights the flexibility in foraging strategies used by LNFS in response to environmental changes. The effect of inter-annual differences in foraging strategies on overall reproductive success warrants further investigation.

KEY WORDS: Arctocephalus forsteri · Upwelling · Continental shelf · Foraging strategies · Foraging ecology · Timing · Marine top predators · Subtropical front

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Cite this article as: Foo D, McMahon C, Hindell M, Goldsworthy S, Bailleul F (2019) Influence of shelf oceanographic variability on alternate foraging strategies in long-nosed fur seals. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 615:189-204.

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