Far away from home: presence of fur seal (Arctocephalus sp.) in the equatorial Atlantic Ocean

Abstract

The occurrence of pinnipeds in areas distant from their reproductive sites is a well-known phenomenon, which could be influenced by oceanographic anomalies in a changing environment. In the present paper, we present an extra-limital record in deep pelagic waters of a young fur seal (Arctocephalus sp.) in the North Atlantic Ocean. The individual was recorded alive in March/April 2013 in the vicinity of the São Pedro and São Paulo Archipelago (ca. 00°56′N; 29°22′W), which is about 1010 km away from the Brazilian mainland, just above the equatorial line. The specimen was apparently healthy, and it was feeding upon flying fish (Cheilopogon cyanopterus). We hypothesized it to be one of the three main potential species (Arctocephalus tropicalis, Arctocephalus australis, and Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus), suggested their possible routes of arrival, and highlighted it as the northernmost record of a fur seal in the Atlantic Ocean.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the diver Fernando Rodrigues da Silva (Sea Paradise’ diver), who recorded the specimen and kindly made the footage of the individual available. We are also grateful to Stephen Kirkman (Specialist Scientist from the Department of Environmental Affairs: Oceans and Coasts Research, Cape Town, South Africa) and César Jaeger Drehmer (Professor from “Universidade Federal de Pelotas”, Brazil) for their opinions about the species identification. We also thank the Brazilian Navy (SECIRM) and the crews from the “Transmar I” for logistic support during the scientific expeditions. This work was financially supported by “Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq)” (process no. 557176/2009-3). We thank the Cetacean Society International for grant funding and PROPP-UESC for financial support (process no. 00220.1100.1263). Lucas Milmann and Rodrigo Machado were also supported by “Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento Pessoal de Nível Superior" (CAPES doctoral and master grants, respectively), and Larissa Rosa de Oliveira was supported by CNPq (productivity grants no. 303813/2011-3, 308650/2014-0, and 310621/2017-8). Finally, we also thank Marthán N. Bester, Gregory J. G. Hofmeyr, Iain Staniland, and other anonymous referee for their comments and suggestions that helped improve the final version of the text.

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Milmann, L., Machado, R., de Oliveira, L.R. et al. Far away from home: presence of fur seal (Arctocephalus sp.) in the equatorial Atlantic Ocean. Polar Biol 42, 817–822 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-019-02461-z

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Keywords

  • Vagrant fur seals
  • Mammalian dispersion
  • Pinnipeds
  • São Pedro and São Paulo Archipelago
  • Saint Paul’s Rocks