REVIEW ARTICLE

Direct At-Sea Observations of Elephant Seals (Mirounga spp.) to Help Interpret Digital Bio-logging Data

The Open Biology Journal 25 Sept 2020 REVIEW ARTICLE DOI: 10.2174/1874196702008010001

Abstract

Background:

A key short-fall with animal-borne bio-logging instruments, which collect digital time-series data regarding the foraging behaviours of cryptic marine mammal species, is validating those data against in situ behaviours.

Objective:

To collate direct observations of elephant seal feeding behaviour to help interpret foraging behaviours inferred from Time-Depth Recorder (TDR) data.

Methods:

Direct observations of elephant seal foraging behaviour were collated from the published literature using a search of the world-wide-web. Those observations were supplemented with an unpublished record.

Results:

Two deep-sea video recordings and six surface sightings of elephant seals ingesting prey were collated. Each observation either supported or suggested an alternative to behaviours derived from digital time-depth profiles. The tendency for elephant seals to surface following the capture of large prey suggests precipitous drops in stomach temperature at the sea-surface, which have been recorded and interpreted as drinking events, more likely represent the ingestion of large prey items.

Conclusion:

Direct observations of marine mammal foraging behaviours are rare, yet they provide a means to continuously evaluate and interpret outcomes of bio-logging instruments.

Keywords: Bio-logging, Foraging behaviour, Marine mammal, Stomach temperature, Time-depth recorder, Elephant seals (Mirounga spp.).
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