Seasonal diving behaviour in lactating subantarctic fur seals on Amsterdam Island

Jean-Yves Georges, Y Tremblay, C Guinet

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43 Citations (Scopus)


Diving behaviour was investigated in female subantarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus tropicalis) breeding on Amsterdam Island, Indian Ocean. Data were collected using electronic Time Depth Recorders on 19 seals during their first foraging trip after parturition in December, foraging trips later in summer, and during winter. Subantarctic fur seals at Amsterdam Island are nocturnal, shallow divers. Ninety-nine percent of recorded dives occurred at night. The diel dive pattern and changes in dive parameters throughout the night suggest that fur seals follow the nycthemeral migrations of their main prey. Seasonal changes in diving behaviour amounted to the fur seals performing progressively deeper and longer dives from their first foraging trip through winter. Dive depth and dive duration increased from the first trip after parturition (16.6 +/- 0.5 m and 62.1 +/- 1.6 s respectively, n = 1000) to summer (19.0 +/- 0.4 m and 65 +/- 1 s, respectively, n = 2000) through winter (29.0 +/- 1.0 m and 91.2 +/- 2.2 s, respectively, n = 800). In summer, subantarctic fur seals increased the proportion of time spent at the bottom during dives of between 10 and 20 m, apparently searching for prey when descending to these depths, which corresponded to the oceanic mixed layer. In winter, fur seals behaved similarly when diving between 20 and 50 m, suggesting that the most profitable depths for feeding moved down during the study period. Most of the dives did not exceed the physiological limits of individuals. Although dive frequency did not vary (10 dives/h of night), the vertical travel distance and the time spent diving increased throughout the study period, while the post-dive interval decreased, indicating that subantarctic fur seals showed a greater diving effort in winter, compared to earlier seasons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-69
Number of pages11
JournalPolar Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2000




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