Robust digestion and passage rate estimates for hard parts of grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) prey

Kate Grellier, Philip Steven Hammond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Application of digestion correction factors to measurements and counts of fish otoliths and cephalopod beaks recovered from seal scats is required before the size or quantity of prey consumed can be accurately estimated. We carried out 86 feeding trials with seven grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) and 18 prey species to derive estimates of digestion coefficients (to account for partial digestion), recovery rates (to account for complete digestion), and passage rates (to estimate the time between consumption and excretion of an item). Mean digestion coefficients were greatest for sandeel (Ammodytes marinus) and then less for large gadoid, flatfish, and Trisopterus spp. otoliths; and finally squid (Loligo forbesii) beaks. Recovery rates were greatest for squid beaks and then less for large gadoid, Trisopterits spp., flatfish, and sandeel otoliths. Greater than 95% of otoliths and beaks recovered were passed within 4 days (similar to 88 h) of consumption. The large differences in partial and complete digestion rates found among prey species reinforce the importance of obtaining robust estimates of these quantities. Results from this study are the most comprehensive and systematically obtained for any species of pinniped and will allow accurate and precise estimation of the number and size of fish represented by otoliths recovered from grey seal scat samples collected in the wild.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1982-1998
Number of pages17
JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Volume63
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2006

Keywords

  • HARBOR SEAL
  • GRAY SEALS
  • NORTH-SEA
  • DIET COMPOSITION
  • FECAL SAMPLES
  • OTOLITHS
  • MOVEMENTS
  • SCOTLAND
  • SIZE
  • ISLAND

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