Antarctic Science

Papers—Life Sciences and Oceanography

Foraging strategies of southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) in relation to frontal zones and water masses

Iain Field a1a3, Mark Hindell a2c1, David Slip a3 and Kelvin Michael a1
a1 Institute of Antarctic and Southern Ocean Studies, University of Tasmania, PO Box 252-05, Hobart, TAS 7001, Australia
a2 Antarctic Wildlife Research Unit, School of Zoology, University of Tasmania, PO Box 252-05, Hobart, TAS 7001, Australia
a3 Australian Antarctic Division, Channel Highway, Kingston, TAS 7050, Australia

Article author query
field i   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
hindell m   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
slip d   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
michael k   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Geolocating-time-depth-temperature-recorders (GLTDTR) provided a continuous record of diving behaviour in relation to water temperature for ten female southern elephant seals from Macquarie Island during their post-breeding trips to sea. Four water bodies were determined from depth/temperature profiles recorded by the GLTDTRs. These water bodies corresponded to Sub-Antarctic Mode Water (SAMW), Polar Front Zone Water (PFZW), Polar Front Water (PFW) and Antarctic Water Masses (AWM). Thermal structures within these water bodies did not influence seal diving behaviour. Overall mean dive depth, nocturnal dive depths, diurnal dive depths and dive duration were similar in all areas. However, individuals did change behaviour as they moved between different water bodies. Seals also used different water bodies in the two different years of the study. We suggest that variations in foraging behaviour among seals are a result of prey distribution associated with local oceanographic conditions, but also reflect important individual foraging strategies within thermal zones.

(Received October 16 2000)
(Accepted July 9 2001)

Key Words: foraging behaviour; southern elephant seal; Southern Ocean; water temperature.

c1 Author for correspondence: