Inter-Research >  > Prepress Abstract

ESR prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00999

Wanted dead or alive: characterizing likelihood of juvenile Steller sea lion predation from diving and space use patterns

Amanda M. Bishop*, Alexandra Dubel, Renae Sattler, Casey L. Brown, Markus Horning

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Understanding linkages between behaviors and mortality risk is critical for managing populations. Juveniles constitute a particularly vulnerable life stage, with growing evidence that within stages, individual strategies may be associated with greater predation risk and mortality. These forms of predator–prey dynamics are rarely explored in marine environments due to difficulties in confirming vital status of individuals, and the lack of datasets that link mortality to behavior. We analyzed 2 concurrently collected datasets for juvenile Steller sea lions Eumetopias jubatus in the Gulf of Alaska to examine associations between mortality and specific behavioral patterns. Forty-five juvenile Steller sea lions were instrumented with external satellite tags and internally implanted vital rate transmitters (LHX tags). From 2005 through 2018, 25 juveniles remained alive and 20 died (18 confirmed predation). Using a binomial generalized linear mixed-effects model, we tested whether the probability of individual mortality was associated with seasonally specific dive patterns (time wet, dive depth) or horizontal movement patterns (home range size, average trip distance). Additionally, in 3 cases, external tags were transmitting until death. To examine links between fine-scale ante-mortem behavioral patterns and predation susceptibility, we compared dive patterns during both dead and live animals’ last 3 days of data transmissions to other periods at sea. Results suggest individuals that spent more time dry or dove shallower had a greater mortality probability, which could reflect foraging tactics of predators. This study highlights the effectiveness of combining multiple telemetry systems for exploring the vulnerability of individuals to the consumptive effects of predators.