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Linking marine predator diving behavior to local prey fields in contrasting habitats in a subarctic glacial fjord Public Deposited

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  • Foraging theory predicts that animals will adjust their foraging behavior in order to maximize net energy intake and that trade-offs may exist that can influence their behavior. Although substantial advances have been made with respect to the foraging ecology of large marine predators, there is still a limited understanding of how predators respond to temporal and spatial variability in prey resources, primarily due to a lack of empirical studies that quantify foraging and diving behavior concurrently with characteristics of prey fields. Such information is important because changes in prey availability can influence the foraging success and ultimately fitness of marine predators. We assessed the diving behavior of juvenile female harbor seals (Phoca vitulina richardii) and prey fields near glacial ice and terrestrial haulout sites in Glacier Bay (58°40′N, −136°05′W), Alaska. Harbor seals captured at glacial ice sites dived deeper, had longer dive durations, lower percent bottom time, and generally traveled further to forage. The increased diving effort for seals from the glacial ice site corresponded to lower prey densities and prey at deeper depths at the glacial ice site. In contrast, seals captured at terrestrial sites dived shallower, had shorter dive durations, higher percent bottom time, and traveled shorter distances to access foraging areas with much higher prey densities at shallower depths. The increased diving effort for seals from glacial ice sites suggests that the lower relative availability of prey may be offset by other factors, such as the stability of the glacial ice as a resting platform and as a refuge from predation. We provide evidence of differences in prey accessibility for seals associated with glacial ice and terrestrial habitats and suggest that seals may balance trade-offs between the costs and benefits of using these habitats.
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  • Womble, J. N., Blundell, G. M., Gende, S. M., Horning, M., Sigler, M. F., & Csepp, D. J. (2014). Linking marine predator diving behavior to local prey fields in contrasting habitats in a subarctic glacial fjord. Marine Biology, 161(6), 1361-1374. doi:10.1007/s00227-014-2424-8
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  • 161
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  • 6
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  • Funding and logistical support for this project was provided by the National Park Service (NPS)—Coastal Cluster Program, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, NPS-NRPP (PMIS Project # 35747), Alaska Department of Fish and Game Marine Mammal Program funded by congressional appropriations administered via grants from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Alaska Fisheries Science Center-Auke Bay Laboratory, Alaska Sealife Center, and the Ocean Alaska Science and Learning Center. J.N.W. was supported by a Mamie Markham Research Fellowship (OSU-Hatfield Marine Science Center), Munson Wildlife Fellowship, Oregon State University (OSU) Laurels Fellowship, Horace M. Albright-Conrad L. Wirth Fellowship, the OSU Marine Mammal Institute-Pinniped Ecology Applied Research Laboratory, NRAC Professional Development Grants, the NPS-Coastal Cluster Program, and Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
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  • description.provenance : Approved for entry into archive by Erin Clark(erin.clark@oregonstate.edu) on 2014-07-08T21:18:11Z (GMT) No. of bitstreams: 1 WombleJamieFisheriesWildlifeLinkingMarinePredator.pdf: 1030169 bytes, checksum: 94abd80e44cac050d678233ea986d80d (MD5)
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