Variation in body condition during the post-moult foraging trip of southern elephant seals and its consequences on diving behaviour

Richard,G, Vacquié-Garcia,J, Jouma'a,J, Picard,B, Génin,A, Arnould,JP, Bailleul,F and Guinet,C 2014, Variation in body condition during the post-moult foraging trip of southern elephant seals and its consequences on diving behaviour, The Journal of Experimental Biology, vol. 217, no. 14, pp. 2609-2619, doi: 10.1242/jeb.088542.

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Title Variation in body condition during the post-moult foraging trip of southern elephant seals and its consequences on diving behaviour
Author(s) Richard,G
Arnould,JPORCID iD for Arnould,JP
Journal name The Journal of Experimental Biology
Volume number 217
Issue number 14
Start page 2609
End page 2619
Total pages 11
Publisher Company of Biologists
Place of publication Cambridge, United Kingdom
Publication date 2014-07-15
ISSN 1477-9145
Keyword(s) Body condition
Mirounga leonina
Swimming effort
Science & Technology
Life Sciences & Biomedicine
Life Sciences & Biomedicine - Other Topics
Summary Mature female southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) come ashore only in October to breed and in January to moult, spending the rest of the year foraging at sea. Mature females may lose as much as 50% of their body mass, mostly in lipid stores, during the breeding season due to fasting and lactation. When departing to sea, post-breeding females are negatively buoyant, and the relative change in body condition (i.e. density) during the foraging trip has previously been assessed by monitoring the descent rate during drift dives. However, relatively few drift dives are performed, resulting in low resolution of the temporal reconstruction of body condition change. In this study, six post-breeding females were equipped with time-depth recorders and accelerometers to investigate whether changes in active swimming effort and speed could be used as an alternative method of monitoring density variations throughout the foraging trip. In addition, we assessed the consequences of density change on the swimming efforts of individuals while diving and investigated the effects on dive duration. Both descent swimming speed and ascent swimming effort were found to be strongly correlated to descent rate during drift dives, enabling the fine-scale monitoring of seal density change over the whole trip. Negatively buoyant seals minimized swimming effort during descents, gliding down at slower speeds, and reduced their ascent swimming effort to maintain a nearly constant swimming speed as their buoyancy increased. One per cent of seal density variation over time was found to induce a 20% variation in swimming effort during dives with direct consequences on dive duration.
Language eng
DOI 10.1242/jeb.088542
Field of Research 060201 Behavioural Ecology
060801 Animal Behaviour
060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology)
060809 Vertebrate Biology
Socio Economic Objective 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
ERA Research output type C Journal article
Copyright notice ©2014, Company of Biologists
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