The ontogeny of diving behaviour in New Zealand fur seal pups (Arctocephalus forsteri)

A. M M Baylis*, B. Page, K. Peters, R. McIntosh, J. Mckenzie, S. Goldsworthy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigated the development of diving in 21 New Zealand fur seal pups, Arctocephalus forsteri (Lesson, 1828), prior to weaning at Cape Gantheaume, Kangaroo Island. Diving behaviour was examined using time-depth recorders, which were deployed during two time periods, 5 months prior to weaning (n = 6) and 2 months prior to weaning (n = 15). Scats were also examined to assess whether fur seal pups foraged prior to weaning. The maximum dive depth attained was 44 m, while the maximum dive duration was 3.3 min. Immediately prior to weaning, fur seal pups spent a greater proportion of their time diving at night, and concomitantly several measures of diving performance also increased. In general, pups dived successively deeper (6-44 m between June and September), and the average number of dives per day, dive frequency, and vertical distance travelled increased. Prey remains were present in approximately 30% of scats and indicated that some pups were foraging as early as June (5-6 months of age, approximately 4-5 months prior to weaning). Of the scats that contained prey remains, fish (South American pilchard, Sardinops sagax (Jenyns, 1842); Australian anchovy, Engraulis australis (White, 1790); and redbait, Emmelichthys nitidus Richardson, 1845) accounted for 43% of the prey items found, crustaceans accounted for 36%, and cephalopods (Gould's squid, Nototodarus gouldi (McCoy, 1888)) accounted for 20%.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1149-1161
Number of pages13
JournalCanadian Journal of Zoology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2005
Externally publishedYes


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