Fur seals at Macquarie Island: Post-sealing colonisation, trends in abundance and hybridisation of three species

Simon David Goldsworthy, Jane McKenzie, Brad Page, Melanie L. Lancaster, Peter D. Shaughnessy, Louise P. Wynen, Susan A. Robinson, Kristian J. Peters, Alastair M M Baylis, Rebecca R. McIntosh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Commercial sealers exterminated the original fur seal population at Macquarie Island in the early 1800s. The first breeding record since the sealing era was not reported until March 1955. Three species of fur seal now occur at Macquarie Island, the Antarctic (Arctocephalus gazella), subantarctic (A. tropicalis) and New Zealand (A. forsteri) fur seal. Census data from 54 breeding seasons in the period 1954-2007 were used to estimate population status and growth for each species. Between the 1950s and 1970s, annual increases in pup production for the species aggregate were low. Between 1986 and 2007, pup production of Antarctic fur seals increased by about 8.8% per year and subantarctic fur seals by 6.8% per year. The New Zealand fur seal, although the most numerous fur seal species on Macquarie Island, has yet to establish a breeding population, due to the absence of reproductively mature females. Hybridisation among species is significant, but appears to be declining. The slow establishment and growth of fur seal populations on Macquarie Island appears to have been affected by its distance from major population centres and hence low immigration rates, asynchronous colonisation times of males and females of each species, and extensive hybridisation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1473-1486
Number of pages14
JournalPolar Biology
Volume32
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2009
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Arctocephalus spp.
  • Colonisation
  • Fur seals
  • Hybridisation
  • Macquarie Island
  • Population recovery

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