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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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California sea lion rookery, San Nicolas Island, USA. Sea lion diet reveals changes in prey availability with climate.

Photo: NOAA Fisheries / Mark S. Lowry

Lowry MS, Nehasil SE, Moore JE

Spatio-temporal diet variability of the California sea lion Zalophus californianus in the southern California Current Ecosystem

A 35-year dataset studying the diet of California sea lions Zalophus californianus at the Channel Islands in southern California was investigated by Lowry and co-authors. Of the 142 identified prey species, only 7 were found to be commonly consumed by sea lions: market squid, anchovy, shortbelly rockfish, jack and Pacific mackerel, Pacific sardine, Pacific hake. Diets varied between islands, seasons, years, and the sexes. Inter-annual and decadal patterns indicated sea lions have the ability to switch between prey, thus allowing them to adapt to changes in food supply and availability driven by climate change. The findings help to understand changes in the abundance of forage significant to other top predators and sea lion population dynamics.


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