, Volume 28, Issue 6, pp 456-463
Date: 14 Jan 2005

Spatial movement of adult leopard seals (Hydrurga leptonyx) in Prydz Bay, Eastern Antarctica

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Abstract

This is the first study that has used satellite telemetry to assess the spatial behaviour of adult leopard seals. Satellite tags on 11 leopard seals transmitted between 29 days and 282 days. Swim speeds, distances swum per day and distances from tagging site were significantly different among individuals and seasons. Swim speeds ranged from 0.004 km/h to 10.86 km/h; distances swum per day from 0 km/day to 150 km/day; and the maximum distances from tagging site ranged from 33.30 km to 319.97 km. Rather than moving north-south with the ice most seals remained within a 50 km radius of their tagging site from 11 days to 97 days. The relatively sedentary movement of the leopard seals was unexpected, particularly the movement of animals over winter, which although slightly offshore did not reflect the usual northward winter migration described for the leopard seal. But traditionally, the leopard seals’ spatial habits have been described from sightings of animals at higher latitudes. These are generally younger animals and their behaviour may not be representative of the adults. This study has focused on adult females and animals at the extreme southerly range of the leopard seal. This highlights the importance of understanding and reporting age structure and distribution when discussing animal spatial behaviour.