Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2023-2757
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2023-2757
03 Jan 2024
 | 03 Jan 2024
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Seasonal foraging behavior of Weddell seals relation to oceanographic environmental conditions in the Ross Sea, Antarctica

Hyunjae Chung, Jikang Park, Mijin Park, Yejin Kim, Unyoung Chun, Sukyoung Yun, Won Sang Lee, Seung-Tae Yoon, and Won Young Lee

Abstract. Understanding the foraging behavior of marine animals is crucial for assessing their ecological significance and responses to environmental changes. In the context of Antarctica, marine animals face rapid and profound environmental changes related with global warming. However, our understanding of their responses remains limited owing to the formidable challenges inherent in conducting observations, particularly during the harsh austral winter months. In this study, we investigated the influence of changes in seawater properties and light conditions on the seasonal foraging behavior of Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) in the Ross Sea, Antarctica. We affixed 35 Weddell seals with CTD tags to record their locations and dive profiles, including depth, head acceleration, temperature, and salinity. We found that seals foraged more frequently in modified shelf water and ice shelf water compared to Antarctic surface water. This preference could be connected to greater food availability. Additionally, seals also dove to greater depths and displayed increased activity in capturing prey during daylight hours. This behavior may correspond to the diel vertical migration of pelagic prey in response to varying light conditions. Our findings suggest that Weddell seals have adjusted their foraging behaviors to adapt to spatial and temporal changes in oceanographic conditions. This highlights the importance of extrinsic factors in estimating their seasonal foraging behavior.

Hyunjae Chung, Jikang Park, Mijin Park, Yejin Kim, Unyoung Chun, Sukyoung Yun, Won Sang Lee, Seung-Tae Yoon, and Won Young Lee

Status: open (until 23 Mar 2024)

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Hyunjae Chung, Jikang Park, Mijin Park, Yejin Kim, Unyoung Chun, Sukyoung Yun, Won Sang Lee, Seung-Tae Yoon, and Won Young Lee
Hyunjae Chung, Jikang Park, Mijin Park, Yejin Kim, Unyoung Chun, Sukyoung Yun, Won Sang Lee, Seung-Tae Yoon, and Won Young Lee

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Short summary
Understanding how marine animals adapt to spatial and temporal shifts in oceanographic conditions is of utmost importance. In this paper, we investigated the influence of changes in seawater properties on the seasonal behavior of Weddell seals in the Ross Sea, Antarctica. Our findings could serve as a baseline and establish a foundational understanding for future research, particularly concerning the impact of marine environmental changes on the ecosystem of the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area.