Original Paper

Polar Biology

, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 303-307

Diving physiology and winter foraging behavior of a juvenile leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx)

  • Carey E. KuhnAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California Email author 
  • , Birgitte I. McDonaldAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California
  • , Scott A. ShafferAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California
  • , Julie BarnesAffiliated withVeterinary and Quarantine Centre
  • , Daniel E. CrockerAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Sonoma State University
  • , Jennifer BurnsAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, University of Alaska
  • , Daniel P. CostaAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California

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Abstract

Diving physiology and at-sea behavior of a juvenile leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx) were opportunistically measured in the Antarctic Peninsula during winter 2002. Total body oxygen stores were estimated from measures of hematocrit, hemoglobin, myoglobin, and total blood volume and were used to calculate an aerobic dive limit (ADL). Movement patterns and diving behavior were measured by equipping the seal with a Satellite Relay Data Logger that transmitted data from 8–31 August 2002. The seal remained in a focal area, in contrast to crabeater seals tracked simultaneously. The seal displayed short, shallow dives (mean 2.0±1.4 min, 44±48 m) and spent 99.9% of its time within the estimated ADL of 7.4 min. The shallow diving behavior contradicts previous diet research suggesting Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) is the primary prey of leopard seals during the winter months as krill were found at deeper depths during this period. These measurements of diving and movement of a leopard seal provide valuable preliminary data necessary to develop future research on the at-sea behavior of an apex predator in the Antarctic ecosystem.