Biomass and energy consumption of the South Georgia population of southern elephant seals

Ian L. Boyd*, Tom A. Ambom, Michael A. Fedak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The total annual energy expenditure was estimated for different age and sex classes of southern elephant seals, Mirounga leonina, that breed at South Georgia. The estimated energy costs of reproduction, growth, foraging, and molt were used to calculate an annual energy budget for individuals in each age and sex class. This was combined with population size and age structure to estimate population energy requirements. The estimated average metabolic cost of maintenance for adult males and females was 0.17 and 0.39 MJ/year, respectively. Male biomass accounted for 63% of the total population biomass (222,903 metric tonnes), and the metabolic power for the whole population averaged over one year was 190 MWatts. Total energy expenditure of each age class declined during the first two years but then began to increase because of the onset of reproduction in females and because of increased energy costs of foraging and growth in males. Foraging accounted for 63.2% and 68.2% of the annual energy budget in males and females, respectively. The total annual energy expenditure was 6.01 X 109 MJ/year, and 59% of this was accounted for by males. The gross energy requirement was 7.89 X 109 MJ/year. The production efficiency was 8.2% Average daily gross energy intake during potential foraging periods was 77.3 and 43.2 MJ/day for males and females, respectively. This suggested a capture rate of 0.26 and 0.15 kg of fish or muscular squid per dive for males and females, respectively. Biomass of food consumed depended on assumptions about diet composition. If southern elephant seals at South Georgia fed exclusively on squid, the consumption biomass was 2.28 X 106 tonnes/year.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationElephant Seals
Subtitle of host publicationPopulation Ecology, Behavior, and Physiology
PublisherUniversity of California Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9780520328150
ISBN (Print)9780520368170
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2023


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