hui-coverControversial Catch

Are Steller sea lion populations affected by commercial fishing?

A new Consortium study examines the interactions between commercial fisheries, fish stocks, and Western Alaska’s dwindling Steller sea lion populations. The results pose some thought-provoking questions about how fisheries policy could strike a balance between conserving and consuming limited natural resources.
<see full story>

Marine Mammal Research Newsletter  (issue 13)

field-tInto the Field

Nothing but ice all summer long
Bowhead whale researchers had contingency plans for everything that might go wrong while in the field. However, they never anticipated being shut down by sea ice in summer! <see full story>

lab-tFrom the Lab

Sea lions give up earlier when prey are scarce
Researchers find that sea lions faced with reduced prey availability forage less efficiently and therefore have greater difficulty meeting daily energy requirements. <see full story>

numbers-tCrunching the Numbers

Decoding the mysterious songs of fin whales
Recordings of fin whale calls reveal the year-round presence of two populations of fin whales in British Columbia. <see full story>


thisjustin-tThis Just In

11 new publications…
Steller sea lion competition with fisheries, new fur seal behaviors, deferred digestion during diving, detecting nutritional stress, diets of sea lions, fish eating killer whales, and more<see full story>




Foraging a new trail with northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus): Lactating seals from islands with contrasting population dynamics have different foraging strategies, and forage at scales previously unrecognized by GPS interpolated dive data.
Battaile, B.C., C.A. Nordstrom, N. Liebsch and A.W. Trites. 2015.
Marine Mammal Science 31:1494-1520.
We reconstructed the foraging tracks of lactating northern fur seals (iCallorhinus ursinus) from two eastern Bering Sea islands (St. Paul Island and Bogoslof Island) using linear interpolation between GPS locations recorded at a maximum of four times per hour and compared it to tri-axial accelerometer and magnetometer data collected at 16 Hz to reconstruct pseudotracks between the GPS fixes. The high-resolution data revealed distances swum per foraging trip were much greater than the distances calculated using linearly interpolated GPS tracks (1.5 times further for St. Paul fur seals and 1.9 times further for Bogoslof fur seals). First passage time metrics calculated from the high resolution data revealed that the optimal scale at which the seals searched for prey was 500 m (radius of circle searched) for fur seals from St. Paul Island that went off-shelf, and 50 m for fur seals from Bogoslof Island and surprisingly, 50 m for fur seals from St. Paul that foraged on-s helf. These area-restricted search scales were significantly smaller than those calculated from GPS data alone (12 km for St. Paul and 6 km for Bogoslof) indicating that higher resolution movement data can reveal novel information about foraging behaviors that have important ecological implications.

keywords     foraging ecology, biologging, northern fur seal, Callorhinus ursinus, marine mammal, Bering Sea, magnetometer, accelerometer, spatial analysis, area restricted search
show/hide abstract View Reference

Accelerometers identify new behaviors and show little difference in the activity budgets of lactating northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) between breeding islands and foraging habitats in the eastern Bering Sea.
Battaile, B.C., K.Q. Sakamoto, C.A. Nordstrom, D.A.S. Rosen and A.W. Trites. 2015.
PLoS ONE Vol 10(3):e0118761
We tagged 82 lactating northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) with tri-axial accelerometers and magnetometers on two eastern Bering Sea islands (Bogoslof and St. Paul) with contrasting population trajectories. Using depth data, accelerometer data and spectral analysis we classified time spent diving (30%), resting (~7%), shaking and grooming their pelage (9%), swimming in the prone position (~10%) and two types of previously undocumented rolling behavior (29%), with the remaining time (~15%) unspecified. The reason for the extensive rolling behavior is not known. We ground-truthed the accelerometry signals for shaking and grooming and rolling behaviors—and identified the acceleration signal for porpoising—by filming tagged northern fur seals in captivity. Speeds from GPS interpolated data indicated that animals traveled fastest while in the prone position, suggesting that this behavior is indicative of destination-based swimming. Very little difference was found in the percentages of time spent in the categorical behaviors with respect to breeding islands (Bogoslof or St. Paul Island), forager type (cathemeral or nocturnal), and the region where the animals foraged (primarily on-shelf <200m, or off-shelf > 200m). The lack of significant differences between islands, regions and forager type may indicate that behaviors summarized over a trip are somewhat hardwired even though foraging trip length and when and where animals dive are known to vary with island, forager type and region.

keywords     seals, accelerometers, animal behavior, foraging, biological locomotion, sine wave, fur seal
show/hide abstract View Reference

Resting metabolic rate and activity: Key components of seasonal variation in daily energy expenditure for the northern fur seal (Callorhinus ursinus).
Dalton, A. J. M., D. A. S. Rosen and A.W Trites. 2015.
Canadian Journal of Zoology 93(8):635-644.
Seasonal changes in daily energy expenditure (DEE) and its key underlying components (costs of resting metabolic rate (RMR), thermoregulation, activity, and growth) were measured to determine seasonal energy requirements, bioenergetic priorities, and potential times of year when unpredicted episodes of nutritional stress would have their greatest effect on female northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus L., 1758). The DEE of 6 captive juvenile female fur seals averaged 527.8 ą 65.7 kJ kg-1 d-1 (ą SD) and fluctuated seasonally (lower during summer and winter, and up to 20% greater in spring and fall). RMR also changed significantly with season, and was higher in the fall (potentially due to moulting or anticipated migratory activity). However, changes in RMR did not follow the same seasonal trend as those of DEE. The largest component of DEE was RMR (~ 80% on average), followed by the cost of activity (which may have driven some of the seasonal variations in DEE). In contrast, the energetic costs associated with growth and thermoregulation appeared negligible within the scope of overall energy expenditures. Elevated innate costs of RMR and higher growth rates in the fall and summer, respectively, suggest that inadequate nutrition could comparatively have greater negative effects on female fur seals during these seasons

keywords     northern fur seal, Callorhinus ursinus, daily energy expenditure,resting metabolic rate, activity, growth, thermoregulation
show/hide abstract View Reference

Low prey abundance leads to less efficient foraging behaviour in Steller sea lions.
Goundie, E.T., D. A. S. Rosen and A.W. Trites. 2015.
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 470:70-77.
Breath-hold divers should adjust their dive behaviors to maximize the benefits and minimize the costs of foraging on prey patches of different densities at different depths. However, few studies have quantified how animals respond to changes in prey availability (depth and density), and how this affects their foraging efficiency. We tested the effects of changes in prey availability on the foraging behavior and efficiency of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) by measuring diving metabolic rate, dive durations, and food intake of 4 trained sea lions diving in the open ocean on controlled prey patches of different densities at different depths. Sea lions completed bouts of 5 consecutive dives on high- or low-density prey patches at two depths (10m and 40m). We found that the rate of energy expenditure did not change under any of the imposed foraging conditions (meanąSD: 0.22ą0.02 kJ min−1 kg−1), but that the proportion of time spent consuming prey increased with prey patch density due to changes in diving patterns. At both depths, sea lions spent a greater proportion of the dive bout foraging on prey patches with high prey density, which led to high rates of energy gain (4.3 ą 0.96 kJ min−1 kg−1) and high foraging efficiency (cost:benefit was 1:20). In contrast, the sea lions spent a smaller proportion of their dive bout actively feeding on prey patches with low prey density, and consequently had a lower energetic gain (0.91 ą 0.29 kJ min−1 kg−1) and foraging efficiency (1:4). The 5-fold differences in foraging efficiency between the two types of prey patches were greater than the 3-fold differences that we expected based on differences in food availability. Our results suggest that sea lions faced with reduced prey availability forage less efficiently and therefore would have greater difficulty obtaining their daily energy requirements.

keywords     Dive behavior, Diving energetics, Foraging efficiency, Optimal foraging, Steller sea lion
show/hide abstract View Reference

Assessment of competition between fisheries and Steller sea lions in Alaska based on estimated prey biomass, fisheries removals and predator foraging behaviour.
Hui, T.C.Y., R. Gryba, E.J. Gregr and A.W. Trites. 2015.
PLoS ONE Vol 10(5): e0123786
A leading hypothesis to explain the dramatic decline of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in western Alaska during the latter part of the 20th century is a change in prey availability due to commercial fisheries. We tested this hypothesis by exploring the relationships between sea lion population trends, fishery catches, and the prey biomass accessible to sea lions around 33 rookeries between 2000 and 2008. We focused on three commercially important species that have dominated the sea lion diet during the population decline: walleye pollock, Pacific cod and Atka mackerel. We estimated available prey biomass by removing fishery catches from predicted prey biomass distributions in the Aleutian Islands, Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska; and modelled the likelihood of sea lions foraging at different distances from rookeries (accessibility) using satellite telemetry locations of tracked animals. We combined this accessibility model with the prey distributions to estima te the prey biomass accessible to sea lions by rookery. For each rookery, we compared sea lion population change to accessible prey biomass. Of 304 comparisons, we found 3 statistically significant relationships, all suggesting that sea lion populations increased with increasing prey accessibility. Given that the majority of comparisons showed no significant effect, it seems unlikely that the availability of pollock, cod or Atka mackerel was limiting sea lion populations in the 2000s.

keywords     Eumetopias jubatus, walleye pollock, Pacific cod, Atka mackerel, accessibility, prey distribution, CPUE, linear mixed-effects models
show/hide abstract View Reference Learn more about what was found

Foraging strategies and efficiencies of lactating northern and Antarctic fur seals: implications for reproductive success.
Jeanniard du Dot, T. 2015.
PhD Thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C. 216 pages
Efficient extraction of energy from the environment is key to the survival and reproductive success of wild animals. Understanding the ratio of energy gained to energy spent of different foraging strategies (i.e., foraging efficiency) can shed light on how animals cope with environmental changes and how it affects population trajectories. I investigated how female foraging strategies during the breeding season impact the foraging efficiencies and reproductive successes of two fur seal species—one declining (NFS–northern fur seals, St. Paul Island, Alaska) and one increasing (AFS–Antarctic fur seals, Kerguelen Island, Southern Ocean). I also sought to develop new accelerometry-based methods to easily determine fine-scale energy expenditure at sea (VeDBA and flipper stroke metrics). Twenty lactating females of each species were captured and equipped with biologging tags to record GPS locations, depth and tri-axial acceleration. Energy expenditure for each foraging trip was measured using the doubly-labeled water method, and energy gained while foraging was determined from 1) diet composition (scat hard-parts and DNA) and blood stable isotope ratios; and 2) numbers of prey capture attempts (from head acceleration). Maternal investment in pups was determined from pup growth rates or from energy content of milk samples. Results showed acceleration metrics were only accurate at predicting energy expended by fur seals when time-activity budgets were taken into account (i.e., time spent performing different types of activity). Foraging strategies of AFS females resulted in efficiencies of ~3.4, with more efficient females producing bigger pups at weaning that had greater chances of survival. NFS females employed two foraging strategies with very different efficiencies (~1.4 vs. ~3.0) that were associated with different foraging habitats and diet qualities. However, NFS with the more efficient strategy (3.0) undertook longer foraging trips than the oth er NFS ( 1.4) or AFS (3.4), and thus fed their pups ~20% less frequently. As a consequence, the declining NFS (unlike the increasing AFS) had to compromise between the rate of energy acquisition and the pup feeding frequency. Such reductions in energy intake and time allocated to nursing pups can ultimately lower juvenile survival, and may explain the population decline of NFS in Alaska.

keywords     northern fur seals, St. Paul Island, Alaska, Antarctic fur seals, Kerguelen Island, foraging efficiency, foraging strategies, breeding season, reproductive successes, biologging, accelerometry, VeDBA, flipper stroke, doubly-labeled water, diet compos
show/hide abstract View Reference

Linking northern fur seal dive behaviour to environmental variables in the eastern Bering Sea.
Joy, R., M.G. Dowd, B.C. Battaile, P.M. Lestenkof, J. T. Sterling, A.W. Trites and R.D. Routledge. 2015.
Ecosphere Vol 6(5):75 http://dxdoiorg/101890/ES14-003141
Northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) breeding on the Pribilof Islands, Alaska have declined dramatically over the past 40 years. Effective conservation of northern fur seals depends on understanding the foraging behaviour of adult females whose foraging success is linked to pup survival. We determined the foraging behaviour for 11 tagged lactating female northern seals from the Pribilof Islands using a state-space modelling approach with an autoregressive movement model. To interpret at-sea behaviour in the context of oceanic habitat, we matched high-resolution reconstructed tracks spatially and temporally to a set of environmental covariates that included: commercial groundfish catch, sea surface temperature, primary productivity, wind speed, depth and time of day. We used a Bayesian hierarchical framework to implement a multinomial regression model to link behaviour to environmental covariates; and account for the mismatch of scale between fur seal behaviour and the environmental variables by incorporating an error-in-covariates approach into the hierarchical model. The Bayesian framework allowed us to build a single model to synthesize the information from all the northern fur seal foraging tracks and the available information about the underlying environmental conditions. Application of the approach indicated that the behavioural states for the northern fur seal were significantly related to the Alaska commercial groundfish catch, particularly walleye pollock (Gadus chalogramma).

keywords     northern fur seal, Bayesian hierarchical model, error-in-covariates, diel pattern, juvenile walleye pollock
show/hide abstract View Reference

Bias correction and uncertainty characterization of dead-reckoned paths of marine mammals.
Liu, Y., B.C. Battaile, A.W. Trites and J.V. Zidek. 2015.
Animal Biotelemetry 3(51):1-11.
Biologgers incorporating triaxial magnetometers and accelerometers can record animal movements at infra-second frequencies. Such data allow the Dead-Reckoned (DR) path of an animal to be reconstructed at high-resolution. However, poor measures of speed,undocumented movements caused by ocean currents, confounding between movement and gravitational acceleration and measurement error in the sensors, limits the accuracy and precision of DR paths. The conventional method for calculating DR paths attempts to reduce random errors and systematic biases using GPS observations without rigorous statistical justification or quantification of uncertainty in the derived swimming paths. Methods: We developed a Bayesian Melding (BM) approach to characterize uncertainty and correct for bias of DR paths. Our method used a Brownian Bridge process to combine the fine-resolution (but seriously biased) DR path and the sparse (but precise and accurate) GPS measurements in a statistically rigorous way. We also exploited the properties of underlying processes and some approximations to the likelihood to dramatically reduce the computational burden of handling large, high-resolution data sets. We implemented this approach in an R package "BayesianAnimalTracker", and applied it to biologging data obtained from northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) foraging in the Bering Sea. We also tested the accuracy of our method using cross-validation analysis and compared it to the conventional bias correction of DR and linear interpolation between GPS observations (connecting two consecutive GPS observations by a straight line). Results: Our BM approach yielded accurate, high-resolution estimated paths with uncertainty quantified as credible intervals. Cross-validation analysis demonstrated the greater prediction accuracy of the BM method to reconstruct movements versus the conventional and linear interpolation methods. Moreover, the credible intervals covered the true path points albeit with probabilities somewhat higher than 95%. The GPS corrected high-resolution path also revealed that the total distance traveled by the northern fur seals we tracked was 40% - 50% further than that calculated by linear interpolation of the GPS observations.

keywords     Biologging; Dead-Reckoning; High-resolution animal tracking; Bayesian melding; energy expenditure; Global Positioning System; uncertainty statement; Brownian Bridge
show/hide abstract View Reference

Extrapolating cetacean densities beyond surveyed regions: habitat-based predictions in the circumtropical belt.
Mannocci, L., P. Monestiez, J. Spitz and V. Ridoux. 2015.
Journal of Biogeography 42(7):1267-1280.
Our knowledge of cetacean distributions is impeded by large data-gaps worldwide, particularly at tropical latitudes. This study aims to (1) understannd generic relationships between cetaceans and their habitats in a range of tropical waters, and (2) extrapolate cetacean densities in a circumtropical belt extending far beyond surveyed regions. Aerial surveys were conducted over three regions in the tropical Atlantic (132,000 km2), Indian (1.4 million km2) and Pacific (1.4 million km2)oceans. Three cetacean guilds were studied (Delphininae, Globicephalinae andsperm and beaked whales). For each guild, a generalized additive model was submitted using sightings recorded in all three regions and 14 candidate environmental predictors. Cetacean densities were tentatively extrapolated over a circumtropical belt, excluding waters where environmental characteristics departed from those encountered in the surveyed regions. Each cetacean guild exhibited a relationship with the primary production and depth of the minimum dissolved oxygen concentration. Delphininae also showed a relationship with the dominant phytoplankton group. The prediction envelopes were primarily constrained by water temperature. Circumtropical extrapolations of Delphininae and Globicephalinae were contrasted between ocean basins, with high densities predicted in the equatorial waters of the three ocean basins. The predicted densities of sperm and beaked whales were lower and more uniform across the circumtropical belt than for the other two guilds. Our modelling approach represents a good analytical solution to predicting cetacean population densities in poorly documented tropical waters. Future data collection should concentrate on areas where environmental characteristics were not encountered in our survey regions and where the predicted densities were the most uncertain. By highlighting cetacean hotspots far beyond waters under national jurisdiction, this study can provide guidance for the delimitation of Ecologically and Biologically Significant Marine Areas.

keywords     Cetaceans, circumtropical, conservation biogeography, density, extrapolation, generalized additive models, pelagic waters
show/hide abstract View Reference

Feeding kinematics and performance of basal otariid pinnipeds, Steller sea lions and northern fur seals: implications for the evolution of mammalian feeding.
Marshall, C. D., D. A. S. Rosen and A. W. Trites. 2015.
Journal of Experimental Biology 218:3229-3240.
Feeding performance studies can address questions relevant to feeding ecology and evolution. Our current understanding of feeding mechanisms for aquatic mammals is poor. Therefore, we characterized the feeding kinematics and performance of five Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) and six northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus). We tested the hypotheses that both species use suction as their primary feeding mode, and that rapid jaw opening was related to suction generation. Steller sea lions used suction as their primary feeding mode, but also used a biting feeding mode. In contrast, northern fur seals only used a biting feeding mode. Kinematic profiles of Steller sea lions were all indicative of suction feeding (i.e. a small gape, small gape angle, large depression of the hyolingual apparatus and lip pursing). However, jaw opening as measured by gape angle opening velocity (GAOV) was relatively slow in Steller sea lions. In contrast to Steller sea lions, the GAOV of northern fur seals was extremely fast, but their kinematic profiles indicated a biting feeding mode (i.e. northern fur seals exhibited a greater gape, a greater gape angle and minimal depression of the hyolingual apparatus compared with Steller sea lions). Steller sea lions produced both subambient and suprambient pressures at 45 kPa. In contrast, northern fur seals produced no detectable pressure measurements. Steller sea lions have a broader feeding repertoire than northern fur seals, which likely enables them to feed on a greater variety of prey, in more diverse habitats. Based on the basal phylogenetic position of northern fur seals, craniodental morphological data of the Callorhinus lineage, and the performance data provided in this study, we suggest that northern fur seals may be exhibiting their ancestral feeding mode.

keywords     Otariidae, Callorhinus ursinus, Eumetopias jubatus,suction, biting, fossil pinnipeds
show/hide abstract View Reference

Evidence of partial deferment of digestion during diving in Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
Rosen, D.A.S., C.D. Gerlinsky and A.W. Trites. 2015.
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 469:93-97.
Past foraging success of diving air-breathing vertebrates can adversely affect future foraging capabilities and costs through changes in circulation or increased metabolic costs associated with digestion that are incompatible with efficient diving. This study tested the physiological interaction between digestion and diving by comparing the cost of diving in fasted and pre-fed trained Steller sea lions foraging under controlled conditions in the open ocean. Pre-dive and post-dive surface metabolism and diving metabolic rate were all higher in the pre-fed animals than the fasted animals, indicating an effect of digestion on metabolism. However, the sea lions displayed a significant reduction in the apparent additive effect of digestion during diving. The increase in rate of oxygen consumption associated with digestion was reduced by 54% during diving compared to the increase observed in pre-dive metabolism. This truncation of the additional cost of digestion rapidly disappeared following cessation of diving. The results suggest that Steller sea lions diving to depth demonstrate a partial deferment of digestion while actively foraging and that the classically held view that digestion and diving are incompatible processes may be much more variable and adaptable to specific diving conditions and behaviors than previously thought.
show/hide abstract View Reference

A nutrigenomic approach to detect nutritional stress from gene expression in blood samples drawn from Steller sea lions.
Spitz, J., V. Becquet, D.A.S. Rosen and A.W. Trites. 2015.
Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology: Part A 187:214-223.
Gene expression profiles are increasingly being used as biomarkers to detect the physiological responses of a number of species to disease, nutrition, and other stressors. However, little attention has been given to using gene expression to assess the stressors and physiological status of marine mammals. We sought to develop and validate a nutrigenomics approach to quantify nutritional stress in Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus). We subjected 4 female Steller sea lions to 3 feeding regimes over 70-day trials (unrestricted food intake, acute nutritional stress, and chronic nutritional stress), and drew blood samples from each animal at the end of each feeding regime. We then extracted the RNA of white blood cells and measured the response of 8 genes known to react to diet restriction in terrestrial mammals. Overall, we found that the genomic response of Steller sea lions experiencing nutritional stress was consistent with diet restriction regulation in terrestrial mammals. Our nutritionally stressed sea lions down-regulated some cellular processes involved in immune response and oxidative stress, and up-regulated pro-inflammatory responses and metabolic processes. Nutrigenomics appears to be a promising means to monitor nutritional status and contribute to mitigation measures needed to assist in the recovery of Steller sea lions and other at-risk species of marine mammals.

keywords     Genomics, Expression profile, q-PCR, Diet, restriction, Biomarker, Monitoring
show/hide abstract View Reference Learn more about what was found

Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope trophic enrichment factors for Steller sea lion vibrissae relative to milk and fish/invertebrate diets.
Stricker, C.A., A.M. Christ, M.B. Wunder, A.C. Doll, S.D. Farley, L.D. Rea, D.A.S. Rosen, R.D. Scherer and D.J. Tollit. 2015.
Marine Ecology Progress Series. 523:255-266.
Nutritional constraints have been proposed as a contributor to population declines in the endangered Steller sea lion Eumetopias jubatus in some regions of the North Pacific. Isotopic analysis of vibrissae (whiskers) is a potentially useful approach to resolving the nutritional ecology of this species because long-term (up to 8 yr) dietary information is sequentially recorded and metabolically inert once formed. Additionally, vibrissae are grown in utero, potentially offering indirect inference on maternal diet. However, diet reconstruction using isotopic techniques requires a priori knowledge of trophic enrichment factors (TEFs), which can vary relative to diet quality and among animal species. In this study, we provide new TEF estimates for (1) maternal relative to pup vibrissae during both gestation and nursing and (2) adult vibrissae relative to a complex diet. Further, we refine vibrissa−milk TEFs based on an additional 76 animals with an age distribution ranging from 1 to 20 mo. Mother−pup vibrissae TEF values during gestation and nursing were near zero for δ13C and averaged 0.8 and 1.6‰, respectively, for δ15N. In contrast, vibrissa− fish/invertebrate TEFs averaged 3.3 (± 0.3 SD) and 3.7‰ (±0.3) for lipid-free δ13C and δ15N, respectively. Average lipid-free δ13C and δ15N vibrissa−milk TEFs were 2.5 (±0.9) and 1.8‰ (±0.8), respectively, and did not differ among metapopulations. Empirically determined TEFs are critical for accurate retrospective diet modeling, particularly for evaluating the hypothesis of nutritional deficiency contributing to the lack of Steller sea lion population recovery in some regions of Alaska.
show/hide abstract View Reference

Diet of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in Frederick Sound, southeast Alaska: a comparison of quantification methods using scats to describe temporal and spatial variability.
Tollit, D. J., M. A. Wong and A. W. Trites. 2015.
Canadian Journal of Zoology 93:361-376.
We compared eight dietary indices used to describe the diet of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus (Schreber, 1776)) from 2001-2004 in Frederick Sound, Southeast Alaska. Remains (n=9 666 items) from 59+ species categories were identified from 1 693 fecal samples (scats) from 14 collection periods. The most frequently occurring prey were walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma (Pallas, 1814), 95%), Pacific herring (Clupea harengus (Cuvier and Valenciennes, 1847), 30%), Pacific hake (Merluccius productus (Ayres, 1855), 29%), and arrowtooth flounder (Atheresthes stomias (Jordan and Gilbert 1880), 21%). These species, along with salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) and skate (Raja spp.), accounted for 80-90% of the reconstructed biomass and energy contribution, with pollock contributing 37-60%. Overall, 80% of fish were 14-42cm long and mainly pelagic, though 40% of scats contained benthic-associated prey. Steller sea lions switched from adult pollock to strong cohorts of juvenile pollock, and took advantage of spawning concentrations of salmon in autumn and herring in late-spring and summer, as well as a climate-driven increase in hake availability. Observed temporal and site differences in diet confirm the need for robust long-term scat sampling protocols. All major indices similarly tracked key temporal changes, despite differences in occurrence and biomass-energy based diet estimates linked to prey size and energy density effects and the application of correction factors.

keywords     Diet, scat, biomass reconstruction, hard remains, otoliths, Steller sea lion, dietary index
show/hide abstract View Reference

Validating the relationship between 3-dimensional body acceleration and oxygen consumption in trained Steller sea lions.
Volpov, B.L., D.A.S. Rosen, A.W. Trites and J.P.Y. Arnould. 2015.
Journal of Comparative Physiology B, DOI 10.1007/s00360-015-0911-y
We tested the ability of overall dynamic body acceleration (ODBA) to predict the rate of oxygen consumption (sVO2) in freely diving Steller sea lions ( Eumetopias jubatus/) while resting at the surface and diving. The trained sea lions executed three dive types―single dives, bouts of multiple long dives with 4-6 dives per bout, or bouts of multiple short dives with 10-12 dives per bout葉o depths of 40 m, resulting in a range of activity and oxygen consumption levels. Average metabolic rate (AMR) over the dive cycle or dive bout calculated was calculated from sVO2. We found that ODBA could statistically predict AMR when data from all dive types were combined, but that dive type was a significant model factor. However, there were no significant linear relationships between AMR and ODBA when data for each dive type was analyzed separately. The potential relationships between AMR and ODBA were not improved by including dive duration, food consumed, proportion of dive cycle spent submerged or number of dives per bout. It is not clear whether the lack of predictive power within dive type was due to low statistical power, or whether it reflected a true absence of a relationship between ODBA and AMR. The average percent error for predicting AMR from ODBA was 7-11%, and standard error of the estimated AMR was 5-32%. Overall, the extensive range of dive behaviours and physiological conditions we tested indicated that ODBA was not suitable for estimating AMR in the field due to considerable error and the inconclusive effects of dive type.

keywords     Steller sea lion, oxygen consumption, overall dynamic body acceleration, activity, oxygen depletion, diving physiology
show/hide abstract View Reference

The Consortium is conducting a long-term research program on Steller sea lions, northern fur seals and other marine mammals and their interactions with fisheries, other species and oceanographic conditions in the North Pacific Ocean and Eastern Bering Sea.

See the most recent marine mammal news now.


Click here to sign up to receive our marine mammal research newsletters.
Donate here to help save Steller sea lions.