Marine Biology

, Volume 159, Issue 2, pp 291–301

Winter distribution and haul-out behaviour of female Antarctic fur seals from South Georgia

  • Iain J. Staniland
  • S. L. Robinson
  • J. R. D. Silk
  • N. Warren
  • P. N. Trathan
Original Paper

Abstract

Telemetry-based techniques have revealed the foraging patterns of many land breeding marine predators, especially during the summer breeding season. However, during the winter, when freed from the constraints of provisioning their young, such animals are more difficult to track. Using geolocation (Global Location Sensing, GLS) loggers and satellite tags (Platform Terminal Transmitters, PTTs) we successfully tracked 16 female Antarctic fur seals from South Georgia during the austral winter. The majority of females concentrated their winter foraging in the waters around the breeding beaches (90% of locations were within 510 km). However, as the winter progressed, two of the seals spent a number of months to the south, in and around the seasonal ice edge, and five seals migrated north and northwest from South Georgia. Four of these seals clearly crossed the Polar Front and two reached the Patagonian Shelf, apparently exploiting the continental shelf edge and the Subantarctic Front. Activity (saltwater immersion) data suggested that seals spent the majority of the winter months at sea but there were rare occasions when seals hauled out, either on land or on ice floes. We obtained data from two individuals that enabled us to compare the performance of PTT and GLS devices. For these seals the mean distance between GLS and PTT locations was 122 and 132 km. Although the recovery rates were low in this study, given improvements in attachment techniques, we have demonstrated that these micro-geolocation loggers provide an ideal tool with which to study the long-term dispersal of diving marine predators at larger scales. This is the first study to show that female fur seals from South Georgia remain at sea for almost the entirety of the non-breeding winter period. Using land-based observations it has been assumed that the fur seal population at South Georgia has little temporal overlap with the krill fishery that operates mostly during the winter months in this region. We have shown that a large proportion of the female fur seals that breed on South Georgia potentially remain in the vicinity of the island and are thus in direct competition with the region’s fisheries activities.

References

  1. Afanasyev V (2004) A miniature daylight level and activity data recorder for tracking animals over long periods. Mem Natl Inst Polar Res 58:227–233Google Scholar
  2. Atkinson A, Siegel V, Pakhomov EA, Rothery P, Loeb V, Ross RM, Quetin LB, Schmidt K, Fretwell P, Murphy EJ, Tarling GA, Fleming AH (2008) Oceanic circumpolar habitats of Antarctic krill. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 362:1–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Austin D, McMillan JI, Bowen WD (2003) A three-stage algorithm for filtering erroneous Argos satellite locations. Mar Mamm Sci 19:371–383CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baba N, Boltnev AI, Stus AI (2000) Winter migration of female northern fur seals Callorhinus ursinus from the Commander Islands. Bull Natl Res Inst Far Seas Fish 37:39–44Google Scholar
  5. Baker JD (2007) Post-weaning migration of northern fur seal Callorhinus ursinus pups from the Pribilof Islands, Alaska. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 341:243–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barlow KE, Boyd IL, Croxall JP, Reid K, Staniland IJ, Brierley AS (2002) Are penguins and seals in competition for Antarctic krill at South Georgia? Mar Biol 140:205–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barnes DKA, Warren NL, Webb K, Phalan B, Reid K (2004) Polar pedunculate barnacles piggy-back on pycnogona, penguins, pinniped seals and plastics. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 284:305–310. doi:10.3354/meps284305 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Beck CA, McMillan JI, Bowen WD (2002) An algorithm to improve geolocation positions using sea surface temperature and diving depth. Mar Mamm Sci 18:940–951CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bonner WN (1981) Southern fur seals Arctocephalus (Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire and Cuvier, 1826). In: Ridgway SH, Harrison RJ (eds) Handbook of marine mammals. Academic Press, New York, pp 161–208Google Scholar
  10. Bost CA, Thiebot JB, Pinaud D, Cherel Y, Trathan PN (2009) Where do penguins go during the inter-breeding period? Using geolocation to track the winter dispersion of the macaroni penguin. Biol Lett 5:473–476. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2009.0265 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Boyd IL (2002) Estimating food consumption of marine predators: Antarctic fur seals and macaroni penguins. J Appl Ecol 39:103–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Boyd IL, McCafferty DJ, Reid K, Taylor R, Walker TR (1998) Dispersal of male and female Antarctic fur seals Arctocephalus gazella. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 55:845–852CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Boyd IL, Staniland IJ, Martin AR (2002) Distribution of foraging by female Antarctic fur seals. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 242:285–294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Croxall JP, Silk JRD, Phillips RA, Afanasyev V, Briggs DR (2005) Global circumnavigations: tracking year-round ranges of nonbreeding albatrosses. Science 307(5707):249–250. doi:10.1126/science.1106042 Google Scholar
  15. DeLong RL, Stewart BS, Hill RD (1992) Documenting migrations of northern elephant seals using day length. Mar Mamm Sci 8:155–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Forcada J, Trathan PN, Reid K, Murphy EJ (2005) The effects of global climate variability in pup production of Antarctic fur seals. Ecology 86:2408–2417. doi:10.1890/04-1153 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Forcada J, Trathan PN, Murphy EJ (2008) Life history buffering in Antarctic mammals and birds against changing patterns of climate and environmental variation. Glob Change Biol 14:2473–2488Google Scholar
  18. Forcada J, Malone D, Royle JA, Staniland IJ (2009) Modelling predation by transient leopard seals for an ecosystem-based management of Southern Ocean fisheries. Ecol Model 220:1513–1521. doi:10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2009.03.020 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fuller WJ, Broderick AC, Phillips RA, Silk JRD, Godley BJ (2008) Utility of geolocating light loggers for indicating at-sea movements in sea turtles. Endanger Species Res 4:139–146. doi:10.3354/esr00048 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gentry RL, Holt JR (1982) Equipment and techniques for handling northern fur seals. NOAA technical report NMFS SSRF—United States. Natl Mar Fish Ser 758Google Scholar
  21. Gonzalez-Solis J, Croxall JP, Briggs DR (2002) Activity patterns of giant petrels, Macronectes spp., using different foraging strategies. Mar Biol 140:197–204. doi:10.1007/s002270100684 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Guinet C, Dubroca L, Lea MA, Goldsworthy S, Cherel Y, Duhamel G, Bonadonna F, Donnay JP (2001) Spatial distribution of foraging in female Antarctic fur seals Arctocephalus gazella in relation to oceanographic variables: a scale-dependent approach using geographic information systems. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 219:251–264CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hill RD (1994) Theory of geolocation by light levels. In: LeBoeuf BJ, Laws RM (eds) Elephant seals: population ecology, behaviour and physiology. University of California Press, Berkeley, pp 227–236Google Scholar
  24. Hyrenbach KD, Karin AF, Paul KD (2000) Marine protected areas and ocean basin management. Aquat Conserv 10:437–458CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lea MA, Johnson D, Melin S, Ream R, Gelatt T (2010) Diving ontogeny and lunar responses in a highly migratory mammal, the northern fur seal Callorhinus ursinus. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 419:233–247. doi:10.3354/meps08758 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Luque SP (2007) Diving behaviour analysis in R. R News 7:8–14Google Scholar
  27. McConnell BJ, Chambers C, Fedak MA (1992) Foraging ecology of southern elephant seals in relation to the bathymetry and productivity of the Southern Ocean. Antarct Sci 4:393–398CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Nordøy E, Blix A (2009) Movements and dive behaviour of two leopard seals (Hydrurga leptonyx) off Queen Maud Land, Antarctica. Polar Biol 32:263–270. doi:10.1007/s00300-008-0527-8 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Orians GH, Pearson NE (1979) On the theory of central place foraging. In: Horn DJ, Stairs ET, Mitchell RD (eds) Analysis of ecological systems. Ohio State University Press, Columbus, pp 155–177Google Scholar
  30. Orsi AH, Whitworth T III, Nowlin WD Jr (1995) On the meridional extent and fronts of the Antarctic circumpolar current. Deep Sea Res 42:641–673Google Scholar
  31. Phillips RA, Silk JRD, Croxall JP, Afanasyev V, Briggs DR (2004) Accuracy of geolocation estimates for flying seabirds. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 266:265–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Phillips RA, Silk JRD, Croxall JP (2005) Foraging and provisioning strategies of the light-mantled sooty albatross at South Georgia: competition and co-existence with sympatric pelagic predators. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 285:259–270. doi:10.3354/meps285259 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Phillips RA, Catry P, Silk JRD, Bearhop S, McGill R, Afanasyev V, Strange IJ (2007) Movements, winter distribution and activity patterns of Falkland and brown skuas: insights from loggers and isotopes. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 345:281–291Google Scholar
  34. Prince PA, Francis MD (1984) Activity budgets of foraging gray-headed albatrosses. Condor 86:297–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. R Development Core Team (2009) R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, ViennaGoogle Scholar
  36. Ream RR, Sterling JT, Loughlin TR (2005) Oceanographic features related to northern fur seal migratory movements. Deep-Sea Res Part II Top Stud Oceanogr 52:823–843. doi:10.1016/j.dsr2.2004.12.021 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Reid K (1995) The diet of Antarctic fur seals Arctocephalus gazella Peters 1875 during winter at South Georgia. Antarct Sci 7(3):241–249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Reid K, Arnould JPY (1996) The diet of Antarctic fur seals Arctocephalus gazella during the breeding season at South Georgia. Polar Biol 16:105–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Service Argos (2008) User’s manual. Argos CLS, Ramonville Saint AgneGoogle Scholar
  40. Staniland IJ, Boyd IL (2003) Variation in the foraging location of Antarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus gazella), the effects on diving behaviour. Mar Mamm Sci 19:331–343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Staniland IJ, Reid K, Boyd IL (2004) Comparing individual and spatial influences on foraging behaviour in Antarctic fur seals Arctocephalus gazella. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 275:263–274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Staniland IJ, Boyd IL, Reid K (2007) An energy-distance trade-off in a central-place forager, the Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella). Mar Biol 152:233–241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Tanton J, Reid K, Croxall J, Trathan P (2004) Winter distribution and behaviour of gentoo penguins Pygoscelis papua at South Georgia. Polar Biol 27:299–303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Teo SLH, Boustany A, Blackwell S, Walli A, Weng KC, Block BA (2004) Validation of geolocation estimates based on light level and sea surface temperature from electronic tags. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 283:81–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Thiebot JB, Cherel Y, Trathan PN, Bost CA (2011) Inter-population segregation in the wintering areas of macaroni penguins. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 421:279–290Google Scholar
  46. Trathan PN, Croxall JP (2004) Marine predators at South Georgia: an overview of recent bio-logging studies. Mem Natl Inst Polar Res 58:118–132Google Scholar
  47. Trathan PN, Everson I, Kirkwood GP, Parkes GB (1998) Analysis of haul data from the South Georgia krill fishery. CCAMLR Sci 5:9–30Google Scholar
  48. Vincent C, Mcconnell BJ, Ridoux V, Fedak MA (2002) Assessment of argos location accuracy from satellite tags deployed on captive gray seals. Mar Mamm Sci 18:156–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Warren NL, Trathan PN, Forcada J, Fleming A, Jessopp MJ (2006) Distribution of post-weaning Antarctic fur seal Arctocephalus gazella pups at South Georgia. Polar Biol 29:179–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Weimerskirch H, Guionnet T (2002) Comparative activity pattern during foraging of four albatross species. Ibis 144:40–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Wilson RP, Ducamp JJ, Rees G, Culik BM, Niekamp K (1992) Estimation of location: global coverage using light intensity. In: Priede IM, Swift SM (eds) Wildlife telemetry: remote monitoring and tracking of animals. Ellis Horward, Chichester, pp 131–134Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Iain J. Staniland
    • 1
  • S. L. Robinson
    • 1
  • J. R. D. Silk
    • 1
  • N. Warren
    • 1
  • P. N. Trathan
    • 1
  1. 1.British Antarctic SurveyCambridgeUK

Personalised recommendations