Marine Biology

, Volume 123, Issue 1, pp 1-9

First online:

Sea-bird aggregation at a deep North Pacific seamount

  • J. C. HaneyAffiliated withWildlife Technology Program, School of Forest Resources, The Pennsylvania State University
  • , L. R. HauryAffiliated withMarine Life Research Group, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
  • , L. S. MullineauxAffiliated withBiology Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
  • , C. L. FeyAffiliated withMarine Life Research Group, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

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During June 1991, we studied sea birds at a mid-ocean seamount (Fieberling Guyot) in the eastern North Pacific Ocean. Avifaunal composition changed from small Procellariiformes [a storm-petrel; Oceanodroma leucorhoa (Vieillot)] away from the seamount to an assemblage dominated by larger tubenoses [mostly black-footed albatross Diomedea nigripes Audubon and Cook's petrel Pterodroma cookii (Gray)]. Compared to adjacent waters, sea-bird density and biomass within a 30-km radius centered on the seamount summit were 2.4 and 8 times higher, respectively. Individual sea-bird taxa were 2 to 40 times more abundant at the seamount relative to values reported previously from large-scale surveys of deep-ocean regions in the central North Pacific. In September 1991 we studied potential prey of sea birds in the upper water column using a neuston net and multiple opening-closing net system (MOCNESS) tows. Most potential prey types in the neuston exhibited no significant enhancement over the seamount. MOCNESS samples at 10 m depth, however, showed several prey types to be more abundant over the seamount, and the dominant size class of fish was slightly larger. We attribute the sea-bird aggregation observed at this seamount to changes in the abundance and/or behavior of pelagic organisms in the deep scattering layer (not adequately sampled in this study), perhaps augmented by migrations of seamount residents into the surface layers. Processes on and in the vicinity of seamounts may provide spatially-predictable prey to wide-ranging aerial sea birds foraging in this relatively austere environment.