Weddell seal foraging dives: comparison of free-ranging and isolated-hole paradigms
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© 2014 Antarctic Science Ltd. Weddell seals are polar predators that must partition their time between many behaviours, including hunting prey at depth and breathing at the surface. Although they have been well studied, little is known about how foraging behaviour changes when access to breathing holes is restricted, such as in the isolated-hole paradigm. The current study took advantage of previously gathered data for seals diving at an isolated hole to compare with foraging behaviour of free-ranging seals that had access to multiple holes. We examined dive structure, hunting tactics, and allocation of time, locomotor activity and energy based on three-dimensional dive profiles and video imagery of prey encounters for two free-ranging and six isolated-hole seals. Midsummer foraging dives of free-ranging seals were remarkably similar to those of seals diving at an isolated hole, but there were differences in two behavioural states and the frequency of several behavioural transitions. Results indicate that seals employ an energetically more conservative foraging strategy when access to breathing holes is limited and prey are less abundant. These results highlight the importance of understanding the complex interactions between breathing hole access, prey abundance and other factors that may result in different Weddell seal foraging strategies under changing future conditions.
author list (cited authors)
Madden, K. M., Fuiman, L. A., Williams, T. M., & Davis, R. W.