Marine Biology

, Volume 161, Issue 2, pp 481–487 | Cite as

Analysis of environmental correlates of sexual segregation in northern elephant seals using species distribution models

  • Jonatan J. Gomez
  • Marcelo H. CassiniEmail author
Short note


Elephant seals are among the most sexually dimorphic and polygynous species of all mammals. Their foraging grounds occupy a wide area of the world oceans, where they show spatial segregation between males and females. The objective of this paper was to correlate female and male foraging distributions of Mirounga angustirostris with main climatic variables at a biogeographical scale. We used website and bibliographical sources to obtain information on adult elephant seal distribution and environmental predictors (surface and bottom sea temperatures, productivity and bathymetry) and three species distribution models [maximum entropy model, environmental niche factor analysis and based on climatic envelopes (BIOCLIM)] to predict the habitat suitability of ocean regions. BIOCLIM provided the best fit. Sea surface and bottom temperatures were the variables with the highest explanatory power for females, while bathymetry was for males. Predictive maps suggest that low temperatures constrain female, but not male, distribution at high latitudes. We suggest that large size increases foraging efficiency of males because, among other benefits, it augments thermal insulation, improving the use of cold, rich sectors of the ocean. Different thermoregulatory abilities between sexes due to size dimorphism should be a complementary explanation of sexual segregation in elephant seals.


Spatial Segregation Elephant Seal Sexual Segregation Climatic Envelope Northern Elephant Seal 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was supported by grants from MINCYT-CONAE and the University of Luján (Fondos Finalidad 3.5). MHC is researcher of the CONICET.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Grupo de Estudios en Ecología de Mamíferos, Laboratorio de Biología del Comportamiento, Departamento de Ciencias Básicas, Instituto de Biología y Medicina ExperimentalUniversidad Nacional de LujánBuenos AiresArgentina

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