, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 272-282

The diet of Weddell seals in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica as determined from scat collections and stable isotope analysis

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Abstract

The diet of adult and juvenile Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, was determined from both scat and stable isotope analyses, to ascertain if foraging behavior varied with age, season, or diving pattern. Scats were collected over 6 years and recovered hard parts identified. Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope values were determined for seal blood samples and potential prey items and used to identify primary prey species and assess trophic interactions. Pleuragramma antarcticum remains were recovered from between 70 and 100% of the scats, and there was little evidence for inter-annual or age-specific variation in foraging behavior. However, stable isotope and dive data analyses indicated that while most seals foraged predominantly on pelagic fish and squid, some juveniles concentrated on shallow benthic Trematomus spp. Combining these three methods permitted firm conclusions about diet and foraging behavior to be drawn.