Resource partitioning through oceanic segregation of foraging juvenile southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina)

Iain C. Field*, Corey J A Bradshaw, Harry R. Burton, Michael D. Sumner, Mark A. Hindell

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    92 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    In highly dynamic and unpredictable environments such as the Southern Ocean, species that have evolved behaviors that reduce the effects of intra-specific competition may have a selective advantage. This is particularly true when juveniles face disadvantages when foraging due to morphological or physiological limitation, which is the case for many marine mammals. We tracked the at-sea movements of 48 juvenile southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) between the ages of 1 and 4 years from the population at Macquarie Island using locations derived from recorded light levels. There were significant differences in the total amount of the Southern Ocean covered by the different age-groups. The younger seals used a smaller area than the older seals. On average, the younger individuals also made more trips to sea than the older seals and did not travel as far on each trip. Females spent more time at sea than males and there were no significant differences between the total areas used by male and females. In summary, younger seals remained closer to the island at all times, and they spent more time in more northerly regions that older seals. These differences in behavior created temporal and spatial segregation between juveniles of different ages. Therefore, we suggest that these temporal and spatial separations help to avoid intra-specific competition for resources on land, space on beaches, and at-sea foraging areas. Such modifications of haul-out timing and behavior enable them to exploit a patchy and unpredictable environment.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)127-135
    Number of pages9
    JournalOecologia
    Volume142
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2005

    Keywords

    • Intra-specific competition
    • Niche
    • Ontogeny
    • Phocid

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