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The diet of Antarctic fur seals Arctocephalus gazella during the breeding season at South Georgia
journal contributionposted on 1996-02-01, 00:00 authored by K Reid, John ArnouldJohn Arnould
The diet of lactating female Antarctic fur seals Arctocephalus gazella at South Georgia was investigated during the pup-rearing period (January/March) of 1991-1994. Antarctic krill Euphausia superba was the main prey item, occurring in 88% of all scats (n = 497), whereas fish occurred in 47% and squid in 5% of all scats. There was considerable intra- and inter- annual variation in the characteristics of krill taken by fur seals. The distribution of krill sizes taken suggests that fur seals are not actively selecting particular sizes of krill and, therefore, that the krill in the diet reflects the krill available around South Georgia. The absence of group 3 krill (44-48 mm in length) in the South Georgia area, as indicated by their absence in the diet of seals, is suggested as a possible reason for low availability of krill and the subsequent reproductive failure among krill predators. The frequency of occurrence of fish was much higher than in previous studies; the pattern of fish consumption showed a consistent seasonal pattern in 3 of the 4 years studied. Of the total number of the myctophid Protomyctophum choriodon, the most numerous fish taxon, 98% were taken between early February and the middle of March. Champsocephalus gunnari and Lepidonotothen larseni agg., which both feed on krill, dominated the fish component of the diet outside this period and together constituted 94% of the total estimated biomass of fish consumed. The intra- and inter- annual variability in the diet of Antarctic fur seals emphasise the need for diet studies to be conducted during the entire pup-rearing periods of several years.