Andrew W. Trites

Professor

Tel: 604.822.8182
Fax: 604.822.8180
E-mail: a.trites@oceans.ubc.ca

Education: BSc Mathematics & Ecology (McGill University);   MSc Zoology (UBC); PhD Zoology (UBC)

Courses Taught: Fish 506 – Critical Issues in Fisheries;  Mar. Sci. 455 – Biology of Marine Mammals; Scie 300 – Communicating Science

Research Interests: biology of marine mammals, population dynamics, bioenergetics, fisheries, data analysis

Professional Credentials of Andrew W. Trites:

Professor Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries
Director UBC Marine Mammal Research Unit
Director North Pacific Universities Marine Mammal Research Consortium
Associate Member UBC Department of Zoology
Research Associate Vancouver Aquarium
Member PICES Advisory Panel on Marine Birds and Mammals
Member Marine Mammal Specialist Group for the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC)

Research: My research is primarily focussed on pinnipeds (Steller sea lions, northern fur seals, and harbor seals) and involves captive studies, field studies and simulation models that range from single species to whole ecosystems. My research program is designed to further the conservation and understanding of marine mammals, and resolve conflicts between people and marine mammals. I oversee a research program that includes researchers, students, technicians and support staff. The training of students, and the collaboration between researchers specializing in other disciplines (such as nutrition, ecology, physiology and oceanography) is central to the success of my research program.

 


Current and Recent Projects:

Patch Dynamics. We are studying birds, mammals and their forage bases to determine the consequences of spatial patterns (patches) on predator-prey dynamics in the Bering Sea. This coordinated study involving researchers from 5 institutions is seeking to determine how groups of species (walrus, fur seals, kittiwakes, and murres, pollock, and bivalves) are controlled by fishing, predators, food availability, the physical environment or a combination of all four. (see bsierp.nprb.org/focal/patch.html).

Tagging Pacific walrus with satellite tracking devices

Blue whale skeleton

Blue Whale Project. In May 2010, we completed a 3 year project to recovery and articulate a blue whale skeleton for the Beaty Biodiversity Museum. The 25 m blue whale was buried in Prince Edward Island in November 1987 and was still covered in skin and blubber when we uncovered her 20 years later. Removing the rancid oil from her bones and repairing the extensive damage to her broken and shattered bones was a massive undertaken that involved the efforts of over 100 people. Big Blue is on display in the entrance to the Beaty Biodiversity Museum in the center of campus (see www.beatymuseum.ubc.ca/research/whale).

Counting Steller sea lions at a haulout

Counting Steller sea lions at a haulout

Steller sea lions. The disappearance of Steller sea lions from the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands since the mid 1970s is a major ecological mystery. Through theNorth Pacific Universities Marine Mammal Research Consortium, we have tried to test all of the
major hypotheses. Predation by killer whales, competition with fisheries, and reproductive failure associated with consuming large amounts of low energy fish (e.g., pollock or Pacific cod) have not yet been refuted. We continue to test these three leading hypotheses using a combination of field studies, captive experiments and retrospective modelling and data analysis. (see www.marinemammal.org/research/research.php).

Gluing a GPS-tracking tag to the fur

Northern fur seals. The cause of the Steller sea lion decline may be linked to the dramatic fall of northern fur seals on the Pribilof Islands. In addition to studying a captive colony of fur seals at the Vancouver Aquarium, we have also been conducting research on Bogoslof Island and the Pribilof Islands to assess whether fur seals are experiencing food shortages that could be caused by fishing or natural changes in the ecosystem. The studies have included fine scale foraging, dietary differences, and changes in body size (see www.marinemammal.org/research/furseal).

Harbor seals. Harbor seals have been implicated in the decline of sockeye, chinook and coho salmon in British Columbia. Harbor seals in the Strait of Georgia have recovered from culling and are the highest density population of harbour seals found anywhere in the world. We are initiating a new research program to determine diets and foraging behavior of seals in the Strait of Georgia and the effects that predation are having on the lack of recovery of commercially important fish species. Research invovles a combination of field and mathematical modelling studies.

Harbor seal mother and pup


Graduate Student Opportunities: I generally accept one to two students per year through the Department of Zoology (www.zoology.ubc.ca/graduate-studies/how-to-apply). Current thesis topics are described in the graduate student homepages, and completed theses are listed below. Research topics have spanned the fields of animal behavior, physiology, molecular ecology, biomechanics, ecosystem modelling, habitat modelling, population dynamics, and predator-prey interactions.

PublicationsPUBLICATIONS BY ANDREW W. TRITES

Graduate Theses  |  Non-Refereed Publications  |   Refereed Publications

Graduate Theses


2017
 
Variability of harbour seal (Phoca vitulina) foraging behaviour during out-migrations of salmon smolts.
Allegue, H. 2017.
M.Sc. Thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC. 107 pages
abstract
There is increasing evidence that predation by harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) on young salmon (smolts) out-migrating from rivers may be a significant source of mortality for coho (Oncorhynchus kisutch) and Chinook (O. tshawytscha) salmon populations in British Columbia. Studies supporting this have focused on documenting what and how much harbour seal populations eat - and the potential impact this has on salmon populations. However, little attention has been given to understanding where, when and how this predation occurs, and the extent to which it might be opportunistic or specialist feeding behaviour by a few or many individual seals. I documented the spatiotemporal foraging behaviour of harbour seals in the Salish Sea by equipping 17 seals with GPS loggers and Daily Diary tags - and tracking them before and after the release of thousands of coho and Chinook smolts from the Big Qualicum Hatchery. Reconstructing the high-resolution movements of the seals - and quantifying feeding using counts of prey chasing events (PCEs) detected by accelerometry - revealed that the Big Qualicum estuary was a feeding hotspot for 47.0% of the 17 tracked seals, but was relatively small geographically (accounting for 3% of PCEs) compared to the largest feeding area outside the estuary (26% of PCEs). Comparing the foraging behaviours of smolt specialists with non-specialist seals revealed 4 different foraging strategies. One consisted of seals (17.6%) that only fed on coho smolts and ignored Chinook in the river mouth, while a second group of seals (17.6%) appeared to target larger fish that preyed on Chinook smolts near the river mouth. The two other seal groups did not feed at the river mouth in association with the concentrated numbers of smolts, but either remained resident (52.9%) and fed near their main haul-out sites, or were transient (11.8%) and left the study area all together. My results suggest a high degree of individual foraging and diet specializations - and show that a small number of seals were specialized in consuming coho smolts, but did not appear to respond to the large pulse of the smaller bodied Chinook smolts. Such information concerning the fine-scale foraging behaviour of harbour seals in relation to pulses of out-migrating smolts can be used to design mitigation strategies to enhance coho and Chinook populations.
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2016
 
The cost of energy transformation and digestibility of macronutrients in northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus).
Diaz Gomez, M. 2016.
MSc Thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC. 102 pages
abstract
Bioenergetic studies can quantify the conversion of chemical energy contained in food to biologically useful energy to understand how changes in diet quality and quantity affect overall energy budgets and nutritional status. However, chemical energy is intrinsically linked to the macronutrients contained in food (i.e., lipid and protein) in terms of energetic density and digestive efficiency. For northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) it is unknown how efficiently they transform dietary gross energy to net energy. I fed six trained adult female fur seals eight experimental diets composed of four prey species (capelin, walleye pollock, Pacific herring, and Magister squid), alone or combined. I measured the fur seals' digestive efficiency for energy and macronutrients across diets. I also investigated the effect of dietary intake on digestive efficiency, and tested the hypothesis that mixed-species diets provide a greater nutritional return than equivalent single-species diets. I quantified net energy uptake by measuring excreta energy loss and measuring heat increment of feeding. My results revealed significant differences between digestive parameters across diets. I found that digestible energy (95.9-96.7%) was negatively affected by both ingested mass and dietary crude protein. Furthermore, urinary energy loss (9.3-26.7%) increased significantly with increases in dietary crude protein. I also found that the heat increment of feeding (4.3-12.4%) increased with decreasing dietary lipid content. Overall, net energy gain (57.9-83.0%) was positively correlated with lipid content. I found that macronutrient digestibility differed across diets and that, overall, lipids were more digestible (96.0-98.4%) than crude proteins (95.7-96.7%). Also, dietary protein influenced the ability of fur seals to digest lipids and proteins. Overall, my results demonstrate that low lipid prey not only contain less gross energy, but result in proportionally lower net energy gain following digestion, partly due to decreasing digestibility of lipids in high protein diets. I also found that, counter to predictions, mixed-species diets do not provide fur seals with greater energetic or macronutrient gains than single-species diets. These findings contribute to understanding the nutritional ecology of northern fur seals and the impact that changes in diet can have on the fur seals' nutritional state.
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2015
 
Quantifying the costs of dive behaviours and foraging strategies in Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
Goundie, E.T. 2015.
MSc Thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C. 80 pages
abstract
Air-breathing divers, such as marine mammals, should adjust their diving behaviours in relation to the depth and density of their prey to minimize the energetic costs and maximize the benefits of foraging. However, there is little experimental data to test these predictions or to develop models to predict the responses of marine mammals to changes in prey availability. The objectives of my study were to 1) determine how changes in prey availability affect dive behaviour and foraging efficiency in Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) and 2) develop models with data from free-diving captive Steller sea lions to estimate foraging costs in wild animals and evaluate energetic trade-offs between different foraging strategies. I measured the diving metabolic rate, dive durations, and food intake of 4 trained sea lions diving in the open ocean on simulated prey patches of high- or low-densities at 10 m and 40 m. I also measured diving metabolic rates of sea lions performing 4 controlled dive types that allowed me to estimate the separate costs of different dive components (i.e., surface time, bottom time, and transiting to and from depth). I found that animals diving on prey patches with low prey density altered their dive behaviours and spent proportionally less time actively foraging, which ultimately decreased their foraging efficiency. I also found that making single, longer dives were less energetically costly than making multiple shorter dives in a bout, but that the sea lions replenished oxygen stores more efficiently when making a bout of dives. Finally, I determined the metabolic cost of transiting to and from depth (20.5Ä…13.0 ml O2 min-1 kg-1) was greater than the cost of foraging during the bottom portion of a dive (13.5Ä…4.1 ml O2 min-1 kg-1). With these values, I generated a predictive equation to estimate the diving costs of free-ranging animals. Overall, my results indicate that Steller sea lions do alter their dive behaviour in relation to prey availability and that different foraging strategies have different energetic costs. These results can be used to understand how changes in prey availability affect the overall energy balance and health of Steller sea lions.

keywords     Steller sea lion, foraging energetics, diving physiology
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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
abstract
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
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Winter behaviour and population structure of fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) in British Columbia inferred from passive acoustic data.
Koot, B. 2015.
MSc thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC. 120 pages
abstract
Fin whales are acoustically active year-round, particularly during the winter breeding season when males produce song as a reproductive display. Little is known about movement patterns and population structure of the fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) in the North Pacific. I used passive acoustic data recorded using bottom-mounted autonomous recording instruments to answer questions about the winter distribution, behaviour and population structure of fin whales in a high-latitude area of the eastern North Pacific Ocean. I found that fin whales are present in British Columbia (BC) waters throughout the winter, and their acoustic behaviour suggests that they are engaging in reproductive and possibly feeding behaviour. The presence of these individuals indicates that not all fin whales migrate south in the winter to low-latitude breeding grounds. I found that the majority of fin whales recorded in BC sang a doublet song with alternating ~13 s and ~17 s intervals between alternating classic and backbeat notes (song Type 2). At the most northerly recording site, and the two offshore sites, I found a few instances of a previously described doublet song type that has longer internote intervals (song Type 1). This suggests that two spatially segregated populations of fin whales are using BC waters, with the population producing song Type 2 being more coastal. Through a literature search, I found evidence of song Type 2 occurring from northern BC to Oregon. Song Type 1 has been documented off Southern California, the Bering Sea and the central North Pacific. My results are consistent with evidence showing that two genetically distinct fin whale populations occur in the eastern North Pacific, and that the population that produces song Type 2 is more closely related to the Southern Hemisphere subspecies of fin whale, than to the other population of fin whales in the North Pacific. My results show that BC waters are important for fin whales year-round, rather than just during the summer feeding season―and that the fin whales in BC likely belong to two distinct populations (one of which may belong to the Southern Hemisphere subspecies) and may require separate plans for their conservation and management.

keywords     passive acoustics, fin whale, distribution, behavior, population structure, reproduction, feeding, song
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Diet analysis of Pacific harbour seals (Phoca vitulina richardsi) using high-throughput DNA sequencing.
Thomas, A.C. 2015.
PhD Thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C. 181 pages
abstract
Harbour seals have long been perceived to compete with fisheries for economically valuable fish resources in the Pacific Northwest, but assessing the amounts of fish consumed by seals requires estimates of harbour seal diets. Unfortunately, traditional diet analysis techniques cannot provide the necessary information to estimate the species, life stage, and biomass of key prey (e.g. salmonids) consumed by seals. I therefore developed a new harbour seal diet analysis methodology, using scat DNA metabarcoding and prey hard-part analysis to create refined estimates of salmon in harbour seal diet. I also sought to understand the quantitative potential of DNA metabarcoding diet analysis (i.e. the relationship between prey biomass proportions and DNA sequence percentages produced by high-throughput amplicon sequencing of seal scat DNA). Analysis of faecal samples (scats) from captive harbour seals fed a constant diet indicated that a wide range of factors influence the nu mbers of prey sequences resulting from scat amplicon sequencing. These biases ranged from preferential amplification of certain prey species DNA, to sequence quality filtering—in addition to interactions between the various biases. I was able to apply correction factors derived from tissue mixtures of the species fed to captive seals that improved prey biomass estimates from DNA, and found that the lipid content of prey fish species perfectly predicted the magnitude of bias resulting from differential prey digestion. My results suggest that highly accurate pinniped prey biomass estimates can be attained by applying two stages of corrections to prey DNA sequence counts. However applying these corrections to the scats of wild seals is challenging, and requires a complete prey tissue mix library to create species-specific correction factors for all prey. While I established an approach that could be applied to wild seals, a thorough statistical evaluation and follow-up feeding studies are need ed to determine if the additional effort is justified for population level diet estimates. Lastly, I developed a decision tree approach for merging salmon DNA and hardparts data from seal scats to determine the species and life stages of salmon consumed by seals in the Strait of Georgia, British Columbia.

keywords     harbour seals, diet analysis, salmonids, scat, DNA metabarcoding, prey hard-part analysis, high-throughput amplicon sequencing, Strait of Georgia, British Columbia
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2014
 
Daily energy expenditure of northern fur seals: techniques and measurements.
Dalton, A.J.M. 2014.
M.Sc. Thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C. 129 pages
abstract
Seasonal changes in the daily energy expenditure (DEE) of captive northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) and key components of their energy budget (cost of resting metabolism, thermoregulation, activity and growth) were examined to elucidate potential reasons for the species’ population decline in the wild. The average DEE of 6 females was 527.8 ± 65.7 kJ kg-1 d-1 and fluctuated seasonally (~20% greater in the fall than in the winter). Resting metabolism also changed significantly with season, and was higher in the fall (potentially due to molting or as preparation for migratory activity). While resting metabolism was the largest component of the DEE (~80% on average), it did not follow the same seasonal trend as DEE, and therefore was not the source of the seasonal variation in DEE. Cost of activity was the second major component of DEE and may explain the observed seasonal variations. Energetic costs associated with thermoregulation appeared to be negligible. The northern fur seals were thermally neutral in all seasons for all water temperatures tested (2 °C – 18 °C), except during the summer when immersed in 2 °C water. Comparing this broad thermal neutral zone to the average sea surface temperatures encountered by fur seals in the wild during annual migrations indicates that fur seals can likely exploit a large geographic area without added thermal metabolic costs. While the direct energetic costs of growth appeared to be negligible compared to DEE, the higher growth rates in the summer and elevated resting metabolism in the fall suggests that inadequate nutrition could have greater negative effects during these seasons. Two alternative proxies for measuring energy expenditure were tested and calibrated against respirometry for potential application to wild individuals. The doubly labeled water (DLW) method over-estimated DEE by 13.1 ± 16.5% compared to respirometry. In comparison, accelerometry over-estimated DEE, using fine time scale intervals of 60 and 15 min, by an average of 5.4 ± 29.3% and 13.8 ± 39.5%, respectively. Importantly, seasonal effects (and time of day for accelerometry) must be accounted for when estimating energy expenditure from measures of DLW and acceleration in free-swimming northern fur seals.

keywords     Northern Fur Seal, Daily Energy Expenditure, Thermoregulation, Activity, Resting Metabolic Rate, Growth, Doubly Labelled Water, Accelerometry, Respirometry
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Oxygen stores, carbon dioxide accumulation and nutritional status as determinants of diving ability of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
Gerlinsky, C.D. 2014.
M.Sc. Thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C. 105 pages
abstract
The diving ability of marine mammals is limited by body oxygen stores (TBO) and rates of oxygen depletion (diving metabolic rate; DMR), which can be expressed as the calculated aerobic dive limit (cADL). Diving ability must also be influenced by CO₂ production and control of ventilation. I investigated the factors that limit the diving ability of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus), including the effect of nutritional stress on the cADL. Specifically, I 1) determined the cADL of Steller sea lions by measuring TBO and DMR, 2) determined whether nutritional stress alters the cADL and 3) examined the post-dive elimination of CO₂, and the sensitivity of Steller sea lions to hypercapnia (high inspired CO₂). TBO was estimated from measured blood oxygen stores and body composition―and metabolic rate, breathing frequency and dive behaviour were recorded prior to and during a period of nutritional stress where animals lost ~10% of their mass. Animals breathed ambient, hypercapnic or hypoxic (low O₂) air to experimentally alter pCO₂ levels and decrease rates of CO₂ elimination and O₂ consumption. I found that the TBO (35.9 ml O₂ kg-¹) and cADL (3.0 minutes) in actively diving Steller sea lions were lower than previously reported for other species of sea lions and fur seals. I also found a significant increase in mass-specific DMR and blood volume (resulting in higher TBO) in nutritionally stressed animals that resulted in a longer cADL. Hypercapnia was found to significantly affect ventilation, but had no effect on dive behaviour―and elimination of CO₂ between dives took longer than replenishing O₂ stores. Overall, nutritional stress and hypercapnic conditions did not directly limit the diving ability of the Steller sea lions, but had an indirect effect on foraging efficiency by increasing the time they spent on the surface between dives. Accumulation of CO₂ over several dives in a foraging bout also appeared to reduce foraging efficiency, which likely ultimately limits the time a sea lion spends in apnea and therefore overall foraging duration and net energy intake.
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Effects of seismic operations on bowhead whale behaviour : implications for distribution and abundance assessments.
Robertson, F. C. 2014.
PhD Thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C. 131 pages
abstract
Assessments of distribution and abundance are a common means of gauging impacts of anthropogenic activities on wildlife. However, the influence of behavioural responses on estimated numbers and distributions of animals is rarely considered within this context. I used behavioural data collected in the Beaufort Sea from 1980-2000 to investigate the effects of seismic operations on the distribution and abundance of bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus). Bowhead whales are known to vary their dive and surface-respiration behaviour when exposed to seismic survey operations, although it is unknown whether these changes in behaviour differ by season, reproductive status and activity (feeding, socializing and travelling). Overall, I found that changes in behaviour of whales exposed to seismic operations were context dependent (i.e., they were contingent on the whale’s circumstance and activity). I then investigated the effects of these behaviour changes on the sightability of whales to aerial observers conducting line-transect surveys. I calculated and compared sightability correction factors specific to whales exposed and not exposed to seismic operations and found that whales in all circumstances were less available for detection when exposed to seismic sounds. In particular, non-calves were the least available to observers during autumn when exposed to seismic activities, regardless of activity state. I used line-transect distance sampling and spatial modeling methods to generate corrected density estimates for bowhead whales in an area of the southern Alaskan Beaufort Sea ensonified by seismic operations between late August and early October 2008 to investigate the extent to which density analyses were affected by changes in whale availability. The resultant density surface models revealed a wide-spread nearshore distribution of whales within the ensonified area with some spatial segregation related to activity state. Density estimates that accounted for variations in whale behavior due to seismic operations were also 25–64 % higher than previous estimates. Collectively, these findings suggest that seismic activities may not have displaced bowhead whales as previously thought, but altered their dive behaviours instead ,making them less visible for counting. My research demonstrates the importance of accounting for behavioural reactions when assessing impacts of seismic operations on distributions and abundances of whales.

keywords     bowhead whale, behaviour, seismic testing, distribution, disturbance, abundance, Beaufort Sea, Arctic
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Kinematics and acoustics of foraging behaviour by a specialist predator, the northern resident killer whale (Orcinus orca).
Wright, B.M. 2014.
In Zoology. University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC. 141 pages
abstract
Foragers with narrow dietary niches often exhibit specialized hunting behaviours that improve their efficiency for capturing preferred prey, but can leave them vulnerable if the abundance of this prey declines. I examined the specificity of foraging behaviour by a highly selective predator, the northern resident killer whale (Orcinus orca), which specializes on Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha). Northern residents are undoubtedly well adapted to capture Chinook, however, their hunting tactics have never been described due to the challenges of quantifying underwater behaviour. To address this research gap, I deployed archival tags (DTAGs) on 32 killer whales to measure their acoustic and kinematic behaviour during foraging dives. Reconstructed 3-dimensional tag tracks indicated that foraging and non-foraging dives were kinematically distinct. While engaged in hunting behaviour, whales dove deeper, remained submerged longer, swam faster, increased their dive path tort uosity, and rolled their bodies more than during other activities. Maximum foraging dive depths reflected both the deeper vertical distribution of Chinook (compared to other salmonids), as well as the tendency of these fish to evade predation by diving steeply. Inferences from whale movements further revealed that salmon engaged in other anti-predation strategies, including increasing swim speeds and evasive manoeuvring. DTAG records also provided the first definitive link between echolocation and prey captures by resident killer whales, who displayed significantly higher clicking rates and spent proportionally more time echolocating prior to capturing a fish than they did afterward. Rapid ‘buzz’ click sequences were often produced before fish captures, which is consistent with their hypothesized function of close-range prey targeting. Furthermore, prey handling ‘crunches’ were usually detected following kills and, with buzzes, provide possible acoustic proxies for capture attempts and successes that could be used to estimate foraging efficiency. My thesis determined that northern resident killer whales possess specialized foraging behaviours for targeting Chinook salmon. The specificity of these behaviours may make the whales less effective at capturing other types of fish. If northern residents have limited flexibility to modify their foraging behaviour to successfully exploit other prey types when Chinook availability is reduced, prey capture efficiency (and thus per capita energy intake) could decline.

keywords     prey capture, northern resident, DTAG, salmon
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2013
 
Methodology for analyzing at-sea dive behaviour of a marine mammal.
Joy, R. 2013.
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC. 176 pages
abstract
The population of northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) in the Pribilof Islands, Alaska has declined dramatically during the past 35 years. Arresting the decline of the species requires an understanding of their foraging behaviour at sea and is particularly important for those adult females whose foraging success is also linked to pup survival. We propose an augmented state space methodology for studying behavioural patterns using high-resolution movement time series. We show how non-stationary time series models that describe systems for whom parameters evolve slowly over time relative to the state dynamics can be estimated at relevant time scales for behavioural inference. This framework allows us to relate the time-varying parameter estimates of an auto-regressive system model to the seal's at-sea behavior. The at-sea behaviour states of eleven lactating female northern fur seals were then matched, spatially and temporally, to a set of environmental variables, some of which were averages that represented the oceanic conditions over a large spatial area. The mismatch of scale between seal behaviour and the spatial variables was accounted for by applying an error-in-covariate Bayesian hierarchical model. Using this approach, we were able to link together northern fur seals that went to disparate regions of the eastern Bering Sea, with widely variable information about their underlying environmental fields into a single model. This application of a hierarchical model relates changes in identifiable behavioural states of the northern fur seal to changes in the Alaska commercial groundfish industry over a diurnal foraging cycle. The methodology described in this thesis is adaptable for analyzing any type of high-resolution movement data on marine predators, and will allow for the characterization of other at-sea behaviours as well as other descriptors of pelagic habitat and foraging success.
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2012
 
Assessing the physiological status of northern fur seal populations in North America with fecal hormones.
Atwood, E.M. 2012.
MSc thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. 57 pages
abstract
The core breeding population of northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) in North America has declined significantly since the 1980s on St. Paul Island (one of the Pribilof Islands) while the smaller nearby population at Bogoslof Island (eastern Bering Sea) has increased exponentially. Further south, the population of northern fur seals on San Miguel Island off the coast of Southern California has fluctuated between exponential growth and catastrophic declines associated with re-occurring El Nino events. The goal of my thesis was to asses the physiological status of these three breeding populations of northern fur seals in North America to determine whether nutritional differences could explain the different population trajectories. I collected fecal samples (scats) in July 2009 from these three islands and measured the fecal metabolites of two hormones ˜ a glucocorticoid associated with the stress response, and triiodothyronine (T3), a thyroid hormone associated with metabolic rate. I also assessed feeding conditions using diet and foraging data. I found that sub-adult males and lactating females on St. Paul Island experienced poorer feeding conditions (lower energy content food and longer feeding trips for lactating females) than at Bogoslof Island, but that only the females were nutritionally stressed. I also found that the San Miguel Island population differed physiologically compared to the northern populations in Alaska in terms of stress and nutritional status. The San Miguel fur seals were the most physiologically stressed of the North American fur seal populations (based on elevated levels of glucocorticoid metabolites). However, the stress was most likely related to heat stress and not food (based on low concentrations of T3 metabolites). The available hormone, diet, and foraging data from northern fur seals in North America suggest that lactating females were nutritionally stressed on St. Paul Island and heat stressed on San Miguel Island, and experienced better conditions on Bogoslof Island.
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Prey abundance and population dynamics of South American fur seals (Arctocephalus australis) in Peru.
Cardenas-Alayza, S. 2012.
MSc Thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. 69 pages
abstract
South American fur seals (Arctocephalus australis) continue to survive in Peru in spite of commercial harvesting, periodic disappearance of prey (i.e., El Niño), and competition with the Peruvian anchoveta fishery. I investigated the ability of the Peruvian population of fur seals to recover from catastrophic declines at two temporal and spatial scales. The first analysis determined intrinsic rate of growth (r) and the potential carrying capacity (K*˜the number of fur seals that could be supported in Peru in the absence of sealing and El Niño) from 1880ˆ2010, and the second used pup counts from 1984ˆ2010 to determine the relationship between prey abundance and the timing of pupping at an important fur seal breeding site in southern Peru. Model results indicated that South American fur seals in Peru have an intrinsic growth rate r of 0.20 and a potential carrying capacity K* of 115,000 seals. Recent counts (2007) show that current population is at 33% of the estimated mean numbers of fur seals alive from 1880-1925. Analysis of 25 years of counts of pups and adult females at the breeding site showed a correlation between anchoveta biomass and mean birth dates (r2 = 0.59, P<0.01) and with the ratio of pups to females (r2 = 0.66, P<0.01) in the upcoming breeding seasons. It also revealed a 2-week shift in the mean birth date that may reflect a change in the age structure of the population. Numbers of pups born tended to be lower in years with low anchoveta biomass, as did recruitment of young females. Monitoring daily numbers of pups born and adult females appears to be a useful means to assess the feeding conditions encountered by South American fur seals in Peru. My study also suggests that South American fur seals are adapted to survive in extremely disturbed environments and have the potential to rapidly recover following population declines. Whether or not they ever again achieve their potential carrying capacity will depend upon protection of breeding rookeries, a continued harvest ban, reduced bycatch, incidental captures and illegal poaching, regulation of anchoveta fishing quotas and good environmental conditions.

keywords     population dynamics, prey abundance, anchoveta, Peru, South American fur seals, pup production
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North Atlantic right whale growth and energetics.
Fortune, S. M. E. 2012.
MSc thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C. 93 pages
abstract
Management plans for North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) focus on preventing mortality from ship strikes and fishing gear entanglement. However, population recovery may also be limited by nutritional stress. I derived growth curves and quantified the food requirements of North Atlantic right whales by age, sex and reproductive state. I also compared their predicted needs with field estimates of prey consumption to evaluate the model predictions and consider whether different demographic groups of right whales might be nutritionally stressed. Energy requirements were estimated using a bioenergetics model that incorporated uncertainty in energy inputs and outputs. Consumption was estimated with prey samples taken near feeding whales in two critical feeding habitats˜Cape Cod Bay (n=28 net collections) and the Bay of Fundy (n=19 optical plankton counts). Model predictions indicate that mothers invest heavily in their calves, which effectively double in size and attain ~73% of their mother‚s length by weaning at one year of age. Calves gained an average of ~1.7 cm and ~34 kg per day while nursing during this rapid growth phase. Body growth was best described using a two-phased Gompertz model and could not be fit using any of the single continuous growth models commonly used for other mammals. Energetically, calves required the least energy (~1129 MJ/day) and lactating females required the most (~2934 MJ/day). Adult males and non-reproductive females fell in between at ~1140 and ~1217 MJ/day respectively. Estimates of energy requirements for juveniles, adult males, pregnant and non-reproductive emales compared favorably with estimates of actual prey consumption in their winter habitat (i.e., they differed by ≤15%), suggesting that the model was reliable. However, lactating females appear to obtain considerably less (~45%) of their predicted daily energy requirements in Cape Cod Bay, and almost met their needs in the Bay of Fundy (obtaining ~87% of daily requirements). This suggests that lactating females may be experiencing an energy deficit, which may affect reproductive rates and slow population recovery. Nutritional stress may thus be limiting the recovery of North Atlantic right whales.

keywords     North Atlantic right whale, nutritional stress, energetics, prey consumption, growth
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Habitat selection by foraging northern fur seals: assessing in-situ ocean temperature and links to oceanographic features in the eastern Bering sea.
Nordstrom, C. 2012.
MSc thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. 113 pages
abstract
Habitat characteristics and mechanisms that enable predators to successfully forage are poorly understood in open marine ecosystems. I addressed this problem in the eastern Bering Sea using animal-born data-loggers carried by lactating northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) from two populations breeding in distinct oceanographic zones ˜ a declining population on St. Paul Island on the continental shelf, and an increasing population on Bogoslof Island over the oceanic basin. The data-loggers recorded water temperatures, dive depths and animal locations throughout foraging trips that lasted as long as 17 days and extended as far as 460 km from the islands. I contrasted tag-derived ocean temperatures with concurrent shipboard measurements and found that the fur seal data revealed finer-scale hydrographic processes with less estimated error than ship-derived data, particularly in dynamic oceanographic areas. I also identified probable foraging hotspots using first-passage time analysis of at-sea locations of individual females, and linked them to fine-scale hydrographic data using habitat selection models. I found that hot spots were related to thermoclines and surface fronts (although not with water temperature), and that the relationships differed between populations and among foraging strategies. St. Paul Island fur seals that mixed epipelagic and benthic dives focused their effort in areas with deeper thermoclines that may concentrate prey closer to the ocean floor, while strictly epipelagic foragers tended to use waters with shallower thermoclines allowing prey to migrate closer to the surface. Fur seals from Bogoslof Island foraged almost exclusively over the Bering Sea basin and appeared to hunt intensively along the fine-scale fronts that surrounded the island while fur seals from St. Paul Island extended their trips off-shelf to forage in areas with similar oceanographic features. It appears that lactating females rely on fine-scale boundaries in the open ocean to effectively concentrate prey, and that the relative distribution and accessibility of these oceanographic features account for the inter-island differences in foraging patterns. Collectively, my thesis shows that wide-ranging, diving animals such as fur seals can be used to produce detailed maps of marine habitat and demonstrates the importance of fine-scale habitat characteristics to top predators foraging in dynamic oceanographic environments.
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Resting metabolism, energetics, and seasonal distribution of Pacific white-sided dolphins.
Rechsteiner, E. 2012.
M.Sc. Thesis. 121 pages
abstract
Pacific white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens) are one of the most abundant cetaceans in British Columbia and throughout the North Pacific Ocean. However, little is known about their seasonal distributions and energy requirements. I analyzed sightings of dolphins attained opportunistically by volunteer observers and from scientific surveysËœand found that Pacific white- sided dolphins have been seen with increased frequency along the BC coast over the past 54 years, and seasonally over the past 8 years. The sightings data showed a southward range shift from the 1950s to 2010, and a seasonal movement from offshore to nearshore waters concurrent with the timing of the herring spawn on the BC coast. I deduced whether seasonal movements reflect seasonal shifts in energy requirements by measuring resting metabolic rates and total energy intake for three captive white-sided dolphins twice per month for one year. Open-circuit gas respirometry revealed relatively high resting metabolic rates (~30 MJ day-1 or ~0.3 MJ kg-1day-1) suggesting that white-sided dolphins may need high-energy prey to fuel their energetic requirements. Average resting metabolic rates of the three dolphins were constant throughout the year despite an increase in food consumption in the fall (October to December). I used these average resting metabolic rates and other parameters associated with growth, activity and assimilation efficiency to inform a generalized bioenergetic model and estimate the food requirements of Pacific white-sided dolphins globally, regionally, and locally. My bioenergetic model predicted that wild dolphins require ~30 MJ day-1 for calves, ~60 MJ day- 1 for juveniles, ~65 MJ day-1 for adults and pregnant females, and ~90 MJ day-1 for lactating females. These energy requirements are ~50% higher than observed for dolphins fed in captivity, and are generally higher than estimates for other similar sized small cetaceans inhabiting temperate waters. My model predicts that an average sized dolphin (78 kg) in the wild would consume ~10 kg of fish per day, or about 13% of its bodyweight. Pairing information about prey requirements and seasonal distributions of dolphins with fisheries data can be used to assess spatial overlap between dolphins and fisheries, and may assist in reducing entanglement, by- catch, and conflict over prey.

keywords     energetics, dolphin, cetacean, food intake, metabolism, distribution, British Columbia, prey
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2011
 
Foraging behaviour and reproductive season habitat selection of northeast Pacific porpoises.
Hall, A. 2011.
PhD Thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. 197 pages
abstract
Behavioural observations are fundamental to understanding and defining the habitat needs of animals. I compiled the behavioural repertoires reported for harbour (Phocoena phocoena) and Dall’s porpoise (Phocoenoides dalli) by classifying the life processes of phocoenids into 12 descriptive categories. This range-wide review revealed complex sexual and social behaviours, similar foraging behaviours and breeding site fidelity, as well as differences in habitat selection between these two northern hemisphere species. I also conducted a fine-scale field study of harbour porpoise foraging behaviour at two sites in Juan de Fuca Strait (British Columbia) using point transect survey data (2007–2008), and platforms of opportunity data (1995–1996, 1998–2008) to determine the physical conditions under which harbour porpoise foraged and the extent to which they displayed specialised behaviours. I examined harbour porpoise presence, density and group sizes relative to tidal currents, tidal variation, lunar phase, lunar position, solar position, diurnality, seasonality and presence of conspecifics—and found that greater numbers of harbour porpoise occurred on the ebb current during the spring tides. Numbers of porpoise increased three-fold between April and October, when calves and high-energy behaviours were also more prevalent. To identify porpoise breeding habitat in the inland waters of southern British Columbia and northwestern Washington, I used systematically and opportunistically collected sightings of harbour and Dall’s porpoise (1991–2008), and compared group sizes and frequency of occurrences for both species relative to bathymetry and tidal speeds. Overall, I found that both species selected bathymetrically differentiated habitats that were characterized by high rates of tidal mixing (with harbour porpoise preferring regions ≤100 m, and Dall’s porpoise preferring 151 – 250 m). Spatial analysis identified two separate areas that may be species-specific breeding habitats—the first to be identified for either species in this region. In summary, harbour porpoise maintained stable group sizes and used tidally well-mixed foraging sites on a temporary but predictable basis. Dall’s porpoise were associated with these same areas, but habitat partitioning associated with differences in bathymetry occurred in important breeding areas that may account for the coastal parapatric distribution of these two high trophic level predators.
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Steller sea lions and fisheries: competition at sea?
Hui, T.C.Y. 2011.
MSc, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. 114 pages
abstract
A leading hypothesis to explain the decline of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in western Alaska is the reduction of prey abundance or change in prey distributions caused by commercial fisheries. We sought to improve on past studies that attempted to assess competition between sea lions and fisheries by estimating the local amounts of prey accessible to sea lions. We explored the relationships between sea lion population trends, fishery catches and the prey biomass accessible to sea lions around 33 rookeries from 2000-2008. We focused on three commercially important species that dominate the sea lion diet: 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 estimate the prey biomass accessible to sea lions by rookery. For each rookery, we compared sea lion population change to accessible prey biomass (estimated using our accessibility model and also within 10, 20 and 50 km of each rookery). Of the 304 statistical models we constructed to compare accessible prey biomass and catch to sea lion population trends, only three relationships were significant. These three suggest that sea lion population change rates increased (became less negative) with increasing accessible pollock biomass in the Aleutian Islands and with cod biomass in the Gulf of Alaska. No relationships were found between sea lion population trends and Atka mackerel biomass. Given that the majority of the relationships we explored were insignificant, it seems unlikely that the availability of pollock, cod or Atka mackerel was limiting sea lion populations in the 2000s. Sea lion population trends appeared to be affected by some unknown factor associated with regional differences. Removing fish catches or adding catch to our predicted distributions of groundfish abundances had no measurable effect on sea lion population trends. These observations suggest that sea lion populations were largely unaffected by fishery removals during this period.
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2010
 
Modeling the foraging habitat of humpback whales.
Dalla Rosa, L. 2010.
PhD thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. 185 pages
abstract
Knowing how species will respond to environmental variability and climate change requires understanding the factors that influence their distribution and movement patterns. I investigated the processes that drive individuals to concentrate in specific areas of their home range by modeling encounter rates of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in relation to environmental variables using GIS tools, generalized additive models, and remote sensing and in situ data. I conducted this work at two foraging areas: the coastal waters of British Columbia, Canada, and the Bransfield and Gerlache Straits, Antarctica. Humpback whales in British Columbia were strongly associated with latitude and bathymetric features. The relationships with remotely sensed variables reflecting primary productivitywere not consistent, but higher numbers of whales seemed to be associated withhigherproductivity. In fact, the highest concentrations of humpback whales appeared to reflect areas whereconcentration and retention processes lead to higher biological productivity, including south Dixon Entrance, middle and southwestern Hecate Strait and off Juan de Fuca Strait. Humpback whales in the Southern Ocean also preferred areas of enhanced biological productivity. In Gerlache Strait, humpback whales were associated with areas of higher chlorophyll-a concentration in the central and northern sections of the strait, which also corresponded to relatively higher temperatures and shallower mixed layer depths for the in situ data. In Bransfield Strait, humpback whales appeared to prefer the near-frontal zones and the deep basins, where surface waters are influenced by the Bransfield Current. Interannual variability in both humpback and minke whale encounter rates in Gerlache Strait was correlated with the Oceanic Niño Index, the oceanic component of ENSO. In addition to investigating species-habitat relationships with statistical models, I conducted the first study to describe the satellite-monitored movements of humpback whales on their feeding grounds along the Antarctic Peninsula. Results showed considerable individual variation in direction, speed and range of movements, and an overall pattern characterized by short- and long-distance movements between presumed foraging areas with relatively short residency times. All told, the results of my research show that humpback whale distribution within foraging habitat is influenced by physical and biological variables that enhance biological productivity.
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Influence of environment, feeding, and dive activity on the use of heart rate to predict oxygen consumption in resting and diving Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
Young, B.L. 2010.
MSc Thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. 131 pages
abstract
Despite its essential role in bioenergetic modeling, reliable measures of energy expenditure (i.e., oxygen consumption) associated with the different activities of wild animals have remained elusive. Oxygen consumption rate (VOâ‚‚) associated with activity can be estimated as a function of heart rate (fh), and the empirical relationship between the two has been determined for several aquatic vertebrates while fasting and resting. However, the simplified fh:VOâ‚‚ relationships established from such studies may differ under more complex physiological circumstances, such as when animals are foraging at depth or feeding on prey. I assessed the efficacy of using fh to predict VOâ‚‚ in 7 captive Steller sea lions, Eumetopias jubatus, while fasting and feeding at rest (on land or in water) and while diving (up to 40 m in the open ocean). Linear mixed-effects models revealed that environment, amount of food fed, and type of diving activity all altered the fh:VOâ‚‚ relationship. They also showed that different linear equations are needed to predict VOâ‚‚ from fh for sea lions fasted while on land or in water, but that a single equation can predict VOâ‚‚ on land regardless of whether fasted or feeding. When in water, feeding animals a 4, 6, or 12 kg meal changed the fh:VOâ‚‚ relationship compared to fasted animals. While fh can reliably be used to predict VOâ‚‚ in diving sea lions, the relationship differed between single dive cycles (one dive +surface interval) and dive bout cycles (multiple dives+surface intervals). However, the equation that predicted VOâ‚‚ for single dive cycles did not differ from that for sea lions resting on the surface. Neither dive duration, dive depth, nor food consumed significantly affected the fh:VOâ‚‚ relationships. Heart rate could be used to predict VOâ‚‚ in diving sea lions, but only over complete dive cycles or dive bouts where animals recovered fully from the Oâ‚‚ debt incurred underwater. Based on these results, separate equations that distinguish among environmental, digestive, and diving states can be employed to accurately predict VOâ‚‚ from heart rate in wild Steller sea lions.
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2009
 
Seasonal oscillations in the mass and food intake of Steller sea lions.
Allen, P.C. 2009.
MSc thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. 154 pages
abstract
Morphometric measurements and daily feeding records of 62 captive Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) were analyzed to provide information about seasonal growth and food consumption that has been impossible to collect from wild animals. Data from nursing pups, intact and castrated males, pregnant, lactating and non-reproductive females were also used to determine differences in rates of maturity between males and females, and the effects that climate, sexual maturity, castration and pregnancy and lactation have on growth and food intake. Data were fit with seasonal (sine function) and annual (von Bertalanffy, logistic, Gompertz, Richard’s and maturity) growth models, and showed that males achieved larger body sizes than females by undergoing a growth spurt during puberty and by extending their growth throughout adulthood. Annual increases in the length and mass of females slowed significantly following sexual maturity. Males and females both experienced seasonal oscillations in body mass, but the seasonal fluctuation in male mass peaked later (April) and was far more dramatic than that of females. The mass of lactating and non-reproductive females peaked in early spring (March), while increases in the mass of pregnant females paralleled fetal growth, reaching a maximum before parturition. Changes in mass did not parallel changes in consumption. Fish intake by males and females peaked during winter and bottomed during late spring, while seasonal changes in body mass reached their high and low 3 to 4 months later than food intake. Pregnant and non-reproductive females differed little in the amount of prey they consumed, unlike lactating females that significantly increased their consumption during summer and winter. The differences between females highlight the relatively low additional energetic requirements of pregnancy and the high costs of lactation. Differences between neutered and intact males further suggest that testosterone affected overall male growth, but had smaller effects of seasonal oscillations in mass and did not affect food intake. The reproductive cycle and thermoregulatory requirements appeared to drive seasonal changes in body mass and food intake of male and female Steller sea lions but at different time scales. Our findings also indicate that mass is not a simple reflection of food intake, which has important implications for future nutritional research and bioenergetic modeling of wild pinnipeds.
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Evaluation of a new radio frequency identification tag for subdermal implantation.
Azad, F. 2009.
MSc thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C. 146 pages
abstract
This research was aimed at examining the readiness of a prototype implantable tag of dimensions 39 mm x 24 mm x 4.1 mm designed to operate at 915 MHz for monitoring the movement of young sea lions and seals. Several issues had to be resolved, and they include developing and testing a suitable communication protocol between the base station and tag, and way of providing power to the tag. Engineering issues related to longevity of the implantable tag, and power radiated by the loop antenna of the implantable tag in its alumina enclosure, under skin and under the fat underlying the skin, also, had to be addressed. Finally issues related to how data from the tag could be best recorded at haul outs and rookeries were examined. A working prototype of an implantable tag was obtained by reducing the height of the loop antenna by 2 mm and changing the capacitor values in the matching network to 0.2 pF. Field tests using a base station that accepted signal strengths up to -60 dBm indicated that the tag‚s range was a maximum of 500 m when it was operated out of a body at a data rate of 1 kbps and the height of the base station antenna was more than 5 m. When the prototype was implanted within its alumina housing under the skin of cavernous tissue, the range of the device fell to an acceptable 180 m. A lifetime model indicated that the longevity of the tag would meet the three year target if it were to be operated using a data rate of 1 kbps, transmission interval of 15 min, packet size of 104 bits and battery capacity of 72 mAh. The lifetime model was verified at the same temperature as a sea lion. A link budget model was developed for the prototype tag, and was used to estimate the performance of the implantable in the sea lion‚s environment.
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Determining the relative amounts of prey in Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) diet using real-time PCR.
Bowles, E. 2009.
MSc thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. 54 pages
abstract
Determining diets of pinnipeds by visually identifying prey remains recovered in faecal samples is challenging because of differences in digestion and passage rates of hard parts. Analyzing the soft matrix of fecal material using DNA-based techniques is an alternative means to identify prey species consumed, but published techniques are largely non-quantitative, which limits their applicability. I developed and validated a real-time PCR technique using species-specific mitochondrial DNA primers to quantify the diets of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus). I first demonstrated that the proportions of prey tissue DNA in mixtures of DNA isolated from four prey species could be estimated within a margin of ~12% of the percent in the mix. These prey species included herring Clupea palasii, eulachon Thaleichthyes pacificus, squid Loligo opalescens and rosethorn rockfish Sebastes helvomaculatus. I then applied real-time PCR to DNA extracted from faecal samples obtained from Steller sea lions that had been fed 11 different combinations of herring, eulachon, squid and Pacific ocean perch rockfish (Sebastes alutus), ranging from 7-75% contributions to a meal mix (by wet weight). The difference between the average percentage estimated by real-time PCR and the percentage of prey consumed was generally less than 12% for all diets fed when percentages of prey consumed were corrected for differences in mtDNA density among the prey items. My findings indicate that real-time PCR can detect the quantity of prey consumed for a variety of complex diets and prey species, including cephalopods and fish.
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Fecal triiodothyronine assay validation using captive Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) and subsequent application to free-ranging populations to examine nutritional stress.
Keech, A.L. 2009.
MSc Thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. 97 pages
abstract
Reduced availability of high energy-content prey (nutritional stress) is a predominant hypothesis to explain the decline of Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) populations in western Alaska from the late 1970's to the late 1990's. Animals may respond to eating insufficient prey by increasing stress levels and decreasing metabolic rates. It may thus be possible to identify nutritional stress by measuring concentrations of GC metabolites (stress) and thyroid hormones (metabolism) shed in the feces of Steller sea lions. However, techniques to measure thyroid hormone concentrations from sea lion feces have not been developed. We quantified variation of triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) concentrations in Steller sea lion feces following two injections of thyrotropin (TSH) at 24 h intervals into four captive animals. Glucocorticoid (GC) metabolites were also assayed to examine any relationship to stimulated thyroid hormone secretion. We found that fecal T3 peaked 48 h post-injection and increased 25-57% in three sea lions (all animals, p=0.03). Pre-injection GC increases indicated stress from isolation for baseline fecal collections, but post-injection increases could not be confirmed as a response to TSH injections or as a product of the study design. The results demonstrated that pre- and post-injection changes in fecal GC and T3 concentrations were consistent with predictions of an increased stress response and metabolic rate within the animals. We then measured T3 and GC concentrations in 834 Steller sea lion fecal samples collected in 2005 and 2006 from 15 resting (haulout) and breeding (rookery) sites between British Columbia and the Central Aleutian Islands. Overall, GC concentrations did not differ between haulout populations (western 2006 pre-pupping and eastern 2005 post-pupping). Fecal hard-part analyses revealed a lower energy-content diet in the western population, suggesting that diet quality is a relevant hypothesis to explain slightly higher GC concentrations found in the western population, specifically the Aleutian Islands region. However, the nutritional stress hypothesis could not be substantiated through T3 concentrations. The rookeries possessed the highest energy-content diets, but also exhibited a nutritional stress response with a significantly higher GC and lower T3 concentration than either haulout population (possibly related to lactation or decreased leptin levels), but T3 comparisons performed at scales of site and region were inconclusive.
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2008
 
Determining abundance and stock structure for a widespread migratory animal : the case of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in British Columbia, Canada.
Rambeau, Andrea Louise. 2008.
MSc Thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. 70 pages
abstract
Developing appropriate management plans for species at risk requires information about their population structure and abundance. For most cetacean populations, few reliable population estimates are available and even fewer distributions have been mapped. Accurate abundance estimates can be determined from capture-recapture data if assumptions are met, however this can be difficult when the animal in question demonstrates both strong site fidelity and large-scale migrations, and different models can result in dramatically different results. I explored these issues by examining a 15-year dataset (1992-2006) of photo-identifications of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in British Columbia (BC), Canada. I used multiple capture-recapture models to compare how the definition of population and variation in effort affected estimates of population size, and I explored means to correct for these biases. I also considered stock structure by examining individual breeding ground destinations, movement, and localized site-fidelity within BC. Across the six models considered, the BC humpback whale abundance in 2006 ranged between 1,428 and 3,856 individuals. The Lincoln-Petersen estimate (1,428-1,892) likely best described the number of humpback whales in BC during summer 2006. The effort-standardized Jolly-Seber model (1,970-2,331) is more representative of the larger population of humpback whales that uses or passes through BC over multiple years. Ultimately, selecting the best estimation model requires defining the ‘population’ of interest and accounting for spatial and temporal distribution of sampling effort. British Columbia provides feeding habitat and a potential migratory corridor for whales that breed in the northeastern Pacific Ocean. Forty-four percent of the 1,986 humpback whales considered were sighted in BC in more than one year. Identifications were highest from May to October, with a peak in September, but humpback whales were present in BC in all months of the year. Whales showed strong site fidelity with a median re-sighting distance of 75 km between years, and a maximum re-sighting distance that ranged from 0.41 km to 842 km. Matching rate within BC decreased as a function of north-south distance, though no clear north-south boundary could be established. Stock structure of humpback whales in British Columbia is complex and should be considered in managing this population.
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2007
 
Elemental analysis of otoliths and eye lenses in the assessment of Steller sea lion diets.
Ferenbaugh, J. 2007.
PhD, Texas Tech University. 135 pages
abstract
Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) have historically ranged along the North Pacific Rim from the coast of California to Japan, but the population has dramatically declined since the 1960s. Research has indicated that nutritional stress is likely to be the main cause of the decline. Scat analysis is the preferred technique for dietary analysis of Steller sea lions, and fish otoliths and eye lenses are routinely recovered from pinniped scat. Fisheries scientists use elemental analysis of otoliths and eye lenses to provide information on fish biology, but marine mammalogists have not incorporated this technique to study prey fish or foraging behavior. In this dissertation, I examined the use of elemental analysis of prey fish otoliths and eye lenses in dietary studies for Steller sea lions. I first examined the use of otoliths as indicators of total body burdens of metal contaminants in the fish. Then, I assessed the effects of Steller sea lion digestion on the microchemistry of otoliths. Third, I examined the microchemistry of fish eye lenses, the effects of digestion on eye lenses, and their potential use in dietary analysis. Concentrations of some metals, such as zinc and barium, in undigested otoliths are significantly correlated with concentrations found in homogenized tissues, but several factors affect this relationship, such as fish species, sampling site on the otolith, and the specific metal being analyzed. The degradation of an otolith in the sea lion digestive tract is also likely to affect correlations between otolith and tissue metal concentrations. Steller sea lion digestion has significant effects on otolith microchemistry. These effects do not prohibit the use of digested otoliths in species determination for dietary analysis, but they may preclude using otoliths recovered from sea lion scat for fish stock separation, determination of foraging locations, and fish life history analyses. Eye lenses appear to be resistant to sea lion digestion, and they form sequential growth layers that can be used to age fish. The fibrous structure of the layers may inhibit symmetrical distributions across the lens for some elements, but the distinct elemental distributions across the lens may be useful in distinguishing fish species, discriminating between fish stocks, and tracking fish movements and spatial locations.
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Diet quality and season affect physiology and energetic priorities of captive Steller sea lions during and after periods of nutritional stress.
Jeanniard du Dot, T. 2007.
MSc Thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. 142 pages
abstract
The ability of animals to contend with unpredictable seasonal shifts in quality and quantity of prey has implications for the conservation of wildlife. Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) were subjected to different quantities and qualities of food to determine what physiological and endocrine responses would occur and whether they differed between season (summer and winter) or diet (high-lipid Pacific herring Clupea pallasi vs. low-lipid walleye pollock Theragra chalcogramma). Eight females were divided among two groups. One (Group H) were fed herring for 28 days (baseline), then received a reduced caloric intake for a subsequent 28 days (restriction) to induce a 15% loss of body mass. The second (Group P) were also fed herring during the baseline followed by a reduced isocaloric diet of pollock during the restriction. Both groups subsequently returned to their baseline intake of herring for a 28-day controlled re-feeding. The two groups of sea lions lost identical mass during restrictions independent of species eaten, but did differ in the type of internal energy reserve (protein vs. lipids) they predominantly used. Group H lost significantly more lipids and less lean mass than Group P in both seasons. In summer, Group H also increased activity levels and decreased thermoregulation capacity to optimize energy allocation. No such changes were observed for Group P whose capacity to adjust to the reduced caloric intake seemed to have been blocked by the pollock diet. During winter, the sea lions spared energy allocated to activity (especially Group H) and preserved thermoregulation capacity. Changes in body mass was negatively related to free cortisol and positively related to IGF-1 in winter, but only IGF-1 was related to changes in mass in summer when lean mass regulation seemed more important. Levels of IGF-1 were associated with changes in protein metabolism in both seasons for both groups, but changes in body condition were never explained by the measured metabolites or hormones. The cap! acity to compensate for mass loss was seasonally dependent with sea lions displaying compensatory growth (by restoring lipid stores) in winter but not in summer. Summer appears to be a more difficult season for sea lions to recover from mild nutritional stress. These physiological findings can be used to refine bioenergetic models needed for the conservation of Steller sea lion populations.
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A study of the loop as a compact antenna.
Lea, A. 2007.
MSc thesis, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, B.C. 101 pages
abstract
This thesis examines the suitability of the loop antenna for use as a compact radiating element. The derivation of the loop equation is reviewed, and a summary of the significant research on the electrically large loop antenna over the past century is presented. The theoretical radiation efficiency for the electrically large loop is derived. This analysis shows that the radiation efficiency of the loop antenna is drastically improved by increasing the electrical size of the loop. The theoretical input impedance is used to calculate the quality factor and bandwidth of the tuned loop antenna, and a suitable impedance matching technique is presented to attain this bandwidth. Several loop antennas were constructed, and a Wheeler cap was used to measure the radiation efficiency of these antennas. This measured radiation efficiency is shown to agree reasonably well with the theoretically predicted values.
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2006
 
Long term soft tissue fixation and mechanical reliability of a ceramic housing for a new radio frequency transmitter.
Hori, B.D. 2006.
University of British Columbia, Vancouver. 200 pages
abstract
This project was focused on the design and suitability of the housing component of a new telemetry device to be implanted into young Steller sea lions. The housings suitability is assessed on its long term performance for stable implantation for lifetimes of up to 30 years. An aluminum oxide ceramic material is selected as the housing material as it meets radio frequency, biocompatibility and strength requirements. The housing design consists of a solid base and porous top surface with an inner cavity for electronics potted in epoxy. Aptness of the design for implantation involved investigating the response of the housing to biological and mechanical factors. Biological response was examined by assessing tissue fixation of porous aluminum oxide. Disc implants (36), with a top porous surface of pore size 32 μm and thicknesses of 0.5 mm and 1.0 mm, were sub-dermally implanted into the backs of young rabbits. Due to surgical complications, 33 tags were inserted under the cutaneous trunci muscle, while the remaining were inserted above it. A favourable tissue reaction was assessed in all cases. All implants migrated with the skin growth a distance of 4.69 ± 1.48cm. Half of the implants moved an additional 1.74 ± 1.93cm caused by a combination of externally applied forces and loose tissue attachment. Loose tissue attachment was a result of implantation into subcutaneous fat tissue and the inability of implant encapsulated tissue in integrating with the fat layers. The response of the housing to me! chanical factors was examined by applying loading conditions (cyclic fatigue, compression, puncture and impact) that simulate what is expected in-service. Implants were able to resist fracture due to compression and puncture while impact suitability is achieved when considering energy absorption by the surrounding tissue. The derived housing design has good potential for future implantation into Steller sea-lions. Further research is required to examine implant fixation and migration in dermal tissue compared to subcutaneous tissue. As the implants will move from the insertion location in growing skin, cranial skin growth patterns should be considered prior to implantation into Steller sea lions.
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Harbor seals in Hood Canal: predators and prey.
London, J.M. 2006.
Ph.D, University of Washington, Seattle. 100 pages
abstract
The foraging ecology and population dynamics of harbor seals (Phoca vitulina richardsi) were studied in Hood Canal, Washington from 1998 to 2005. Initial work was conducted in response to concerns over the potential impact seals may have on recovering populations of summer chum salmon. Direct observation of harbor seals consuming salmon within the inter-tidal regions of four rivers in Hood Canal were conducted from 1998-2001 and 2003. Seals were observed feeding on chinook, coho, pink, summer chum and fall chum salmon. Estimates of summer chum consumption by seals at each of the observation sites averaged 8.0% of returning adults across all sites and all years. The maximum percentage of returning chum consumed was 27.7% and the lowest was 0.84%. The number of seals observed foraging in the river for salmon averaged from two to seven seals. Summer chum populations in the study streams have increased over the time of the study to near historical highs. Because of thi! s increase, the levels of predation observed are not believed to significantly impact the recovery of summer chum in Hood Canal. A protocol for extraction of DNA and identification of seal sex from scats was developed to examine differential diets between male and female harbor seals. Scats from both sexes contained similar levels of Pacific hake, but male scats contained more salmon and female scats contained more Pacific herring. In 2003 and 2005, mammal-eating killer whales foraged exclusively within Hood Canal for 59 and 172 days respectively. Bio-energetic models and boat based observations were used to estimate harbor seal consumption by killer whales and, in both years, the predicted consumption was approximately 950 seals. However, aerial surveys conducted following the two foraging events have not detected a significant decline in the harbor seal population.
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An approach to improving battery life time in a PV application using high energy density double layer capacitors.
Majaess, D. 2006.
MSc thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C. 151 pages
abstract
An application to monitor Steller sea lions using a sub dermal sensor requires a power supply to provide energy for wildlife monitoring base stations. The base stations are positioned near the habitats of the North Pacific Steller sea lions in isolated coastal areas of North British Columbia and South Alaska. The locations expose the base station to high winds, storms, ice, snow, debris, impacts from ocean waves, salt corrosion, and wide temperature swings. Furthermore, due to the remote distance, there is limited infrastructure; connection to the electrical grid is impossible and installation/maintenance is costly. The project requires a ruggedized, autonomous power supply requiring minimum maintenance and a long operating life. Therefore, the thesis propose a unique power supply design incorporating high energy density double layer capacitors, (ultracapacitors) that extends serviceability and improves immunity to cold comates Finally, the researchers working on the Steller sea lion project have a limited economic budget and require a low cost system that is simple to transport and easy to install. The purpose of this research is to extend the battery‚s service life and improve the base station‚s immunity to cold climates. In this thesis, two methods are used to accomplish the objective. The first undertaking is to extensively research, design and implement high efficient components to minimize battery demand. As a result, the input source, its electronics and the load are well matched for the application. The next task is to incorporate a battery/capacitor bank to store energy. By integrating ultracapacitor technology to create a hybrid energy storage system, the battery cycling is minimized.
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Steller Watch: timing of weaning and seasonal patterns in numbers and activities of Steller sea lions at a year-round haulout site in Southeast Alaska.
Marcotte, M.L. 2006.
M.Sc. thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC. 82 pages
abstract
Variability in length of lactation and maternal association allows otariids flexibility to buffer their young against changes in nutrition. It also increases the chance of their young surviving to sexual maturity, which is particularly important in a declining species such as Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus). Timing of weaning is a critically important event in mammalian development that can affect subsequent aspects of an animal‘s adult life, and may hold the key to understanding the population dynamics of Steller sea lions. Unfortunately no studies have yet fully documented the behavioural ecology of Steller sea lions outside of the breeding season. The goal of my study was to document suckling behaviour over 13 consecutive months to determine the timing of weaning for male and female Steller sea lions under three years of age at Southwest Brothers Island, Southeast Alaska (July 2004 – July 2005). I also wanted to ascertain the haulout patterns and activity levels of the colony in relation to season, prey availability, time of day, and weather. Finally, I sought to evaluate the feasibility of using an automated, time-lapse camera system to monitor sea lions and its potential for future use. Male Steller sea lions were found to suckle longer than females, with a greater proportion of males than females suckling at one year. Time spent suckling declined with age suggesting that the animals became more independent as they grew older, most likely as they increased their ability to forage successfully on their own. Male sea lions that remained with their mother for longer than one year may have had reduced exposure to predation, and obtained more calories with less energy expenditure from milk, compared to females that became nutritionally independent sooner. As a result, this may provide males with a chance to grow as big as possible, as fast as possible, and increase their ability to hold a territory and have access to mates later in life. The number of sea lions onshore at Southwest Brothers Island was influenced by weather on a daily time-scale, but also displayed seasonal changes that may have been related to prey availability and the timing of breeding. The colony abandoned the island mid-March to mid-April, coinciding with the herring spawn and eulachon runs, which are high-fat species and spatio-temporally predictable prey. High daily variability in numbers of animals at Southwest Brothers likely reflected movement of animals to and from other nearby haulouts. Activity levels varied throughout the year, with proportionally more animals resting in the summer and more animals engaged in low activities in the winter. This suggests a higher behavioural expenditure of energy in the winter, contributing to their need for high quality nutrition. June and July is an optimum time to assess sea lion numbers due to the high number of animals onshore at that time and a greater predictability in sea lion behaviour. The counts obtained from the automated time-lapse camera system‘s digital images correlated with counts obtained from direct observation (r2 = 0.99). The direct counts were on average 22% greater than the digital images. While direct observation is the best method for obtaining a greater variety of data, the camera systems have a good potential to be used to monitor Steller sea lions and other species when researchers cannot be physically present.
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Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) of Oregon and northern California: seasonal haulout abundance patterns, movements of marked juveniles, and effects of hot-iron branding on apparent survival of pups at Rogue Reef.
Scordino, J. 2006.
M.Sc. thesis, Oregon State University, Corvalis. 112 pages
abstract
The Steller Sea Lion Research Initiative was passed in 2001 to provide funding to help scientists determine causes and solutions for the population crash of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus). In response to need to understand population dynamics of Steller sea lions, NOAA Fisheries has spearheaded a large-scale, range-wide research program. The study involved capturing and hot-iron branding sea lions at rookeries from northern California around the Pacific Rim to Russia to provide individually recognizable animals for studies of behavior and vital rates. I report the results of monitoring pups branded and tagged at Rogue Reef, Oregon and St. George Reef, California to determine movement patterns and the affects of branding on apparent survival of Steller sea lion pups immediately after branding. Counts of Steller sea lion adult female, adult male, juveniles, and pups were collected at haulouts and rookeries of Oregon and northern California from 2002 through 2005. Movement patterns of Steller sea lions were inferred from count data. Adult males were seasonal inhabitants of Oregon and California during the breeding season from May through September before dispersing to northern feeding grounds. Females, juveniles, and pups were dispersed throughout haulouts in Oregon and northern California during all seasons but have seasonally high concentrations at Sea Lion Caves, Oregon in the winter and at the breeding rookeries during the summer breeding season. The high wintertime abundance of females and pups at Sea Lion Caves suggests that it should be considered as critical habitat for Steller sea lions of the eastern stock. Resights of marked sea lions collected between northern California and Alaska between 2001 and 2005 were analyzed to determine juvenile and pup dispersal patterns. Most pups stay close to their natal rookery, although 9 - 22% of individuals each year were observed to disperse further than 500 km. As 1-year olds, the mean maximum dispersal range expanded, which may have been a sign of weaning. Sexually dimorphic patterns in sea lion movements were apparent at 3 years of age as males were observed to disperse farther north than females. The percentage of females observed at their natal rookery increased each year to a maximum of 87% as 4-year-olds. This suggested that sexual maturity occurs at, or close to, 4 years of age for females. Branding provided a useful tool for analyzing movements of Steller sea lions, yet it may have impacts on survival of individuals. Concerns raised by NOAA Fisheries over branding impacts on pup survival were addressed with a study at Rogue Reef in 2005. One-hundred-and-sixty pups captured on 18 July, 2005 were randomly assigned to a treatment of flipper tag only (unbranded pups) or flipper tag and hot-iron branding (branded pups). Aside from the treatment of branding, all pups were handled and treated identically. Over the 73-day course of this study, I found lower apparent survival for branded pups than unbranded pups, with a final apparent survivorships of 0.23 (95% CI 0.01 – 0.48) for branded pups and 0.46 (95% CI 0.15 – 0.77) for unbranded pups. Apparent survivorship includes both mortality and emigration, so differences may be due to differences in emigration rates of the two groups, mortality rates, or both. The scope of inference for this study is only to Rogue Reef in 2005. However, it should provide a good model for future brand evaluation studies at other rookeries and for other pinniped species. Branding is currently the best and only available tool for long-term studies of survival, reproduction rates, and age at sexual maturity which are all critical for demographic models. Nonetheless, researchers should assess the impacts of branding at each rookery, and will need to consider whether knowledge from branding Steller sea lions is worth the potential reduction in pup survival or change in pup emigration behavior observed in this study.
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2005
 
Modelling and characterization of Steller sea lion haulouts and rookeries using oceanographic and shoreline type data.
Ban, S. 2005.
Graduate Thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. 103 pages
abstract
Steller sea lions range across the Pacific rim from Southern California in the east to northern Japan in the west, where they have continuously occupied terrestrial resting sites (haulouts) and breeding sites (rookeries) for hundreds of years, if not longer. Why they choose (and stay) at these locations, and what their preferred habitat is, remains unknown. Thus, two aspects of the Steller sea lion?s habitat usage were examined?the oceanographic and the terrestrial. For the oceanographic aspect, spatial models were constructed to determine which oceanographic factors are associated with haulouts and rookeries, and how conditions near sites might differ from conditions elsewhere. The two modelling techniques employed (logistic regression and supervised classification) were evaluated using the kappa statistic (Kno), and receiver-operating characteristic(ROC) plots. Supervised classification was found to produce better-fitting models than logistic regression. In general, Steller sea lions showed preferences for sites associated with waters that were relatively shallow, well-mixed, had higher average tidal speeds and less-steep bottom slopes. Conditions within 1 nautical mile of land were better predictors of haulout and rookery locations than were conditions within 10, 20, and 50 nautical miles. No consistent differences were found in the physical characteristics of waters surrounding sites in the eastern and western populations of Steller sea lions, or between haulouts and rookeries. Regarding the terrestrial aspect of their habitat, anecdotal accounts describe Steller sea lions as predominantly occupying exposed, rocky shorelines, but this habitat preference has never been quantified. Locations of haulouts and rookeries were compared against a coastline type database to identify the shoreline preferences of Steller sea lions and to look for other spatial trends in site characteristics. Haulouts and rookeries were preferentially located on exposed rocky shorelines and wave-cut platforms. No relationship was found between either latitude or longitude of a site and its average non-pup count. The results indicate that there are differences in both the oceanographic and terrestrial characteristics of sites used by Steller sea lions versus areas of coastline where they are not found. The models could be used to predict changes in habitat use given changing physical conditions, and could be applied to any central-place forager.
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Biomechanics of turning manoeuvres in Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
Cheneval, O. 2005.
MSc Thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. 64 pages
abstract
Otariids such as the Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) are among the most manoeuvrable of marine mammals (expressed as a minimum turning radius and speed during manoeuvres). They evolved in terrestrial and aquatic environments that are structurally complex, and feed on prey that are an order of magnitude smaller than themselves. Compared to other aquatic organisms, Steller sea lions have an unstable body design and are presumed to invoke swimming techniques that reflect their need to be highly manoeuvrable. Detailed information was experimentally obtained about the turning techniques employed by otariids through jointly analysing kinematic and kinetic parameters measured from video recordings of three captive Steller sea lions. Centripetal force and thrust production were determined by examining body movements throughout a series of turns. Results showed that most of the thrust was produced during the power phase of the stroke cycle of the pectoral flippers. As ! opposed to previous findings, very little or no thrust was generated during initial abduction of the pectoral flippers and during the final drag-based paddling style of the stroke cycle. Peak of the thrust force was reached halfway through the power phase, while the centripetal force reached its maximum value at the beginning of the power phase. Kinematic aspects of the manoeuvres changed with the tightness of the turns and the initial velocities. The degree of dorsal flexion of the body changed with the turning radius and the degree of flipper abduction varied with swimming speed. However, the general manoeuvring technique and turning sequence remained the same in all the recorded manoeuvres. Contrasting the turning performance of the Steller sea lion with a simple dynamic model of unpowered manoeuvres in aquatic animals showed significant departures from model predictions due to the hydrodynamic effects of body movements. Overall, the turning sequence of the Steller sea lion was found to be very consistent, and their manoeuvrability was found to come from their ability to vary the duration and intensity of movements within the turning sequence.
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A multiple regression model for predicting the energy requirements of marine mammals.
Hunter, A.M.J. 2005.
MSc Thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. 300 pages
abstract
Marine ecosystem management has prompted the need for better understanding of the impact of marine mammals in the oceans. Using the wealth of information available in the literature, a rule based multiple regression model was developed to estimate the energy requirements of all 124 marine mammal species. This meta-analysis modeling framework provided a simple means for estimating the energetics (metabolism or consumption) of marine mammals under varying conditions, as a function of easily obtained or estimated physiological and environmental variables, including morphology, developmental stage, growth, sex, reproductive status, health, activity, postabsorptive state, thermoneutral condition, and season. Based on different combinations of input variables, a set of empirical equations was developed. The empirical equations provide an objective predictive tool for estimating the energy requirements of data deficient marine mammal species. Extensive model validation indicated that all models were robust to their statistical assumptions, including phylogenetic independence, and captured a substantial amount of the observed heterogeneity in energy requirements (up to 82% residual variance). Equations also synthesize evidence of a uniform pattern of energy use, from consumption to expenditure, and provide quantitative rough estimates of the components of the bioenergetic framework for all marine mammal species. Results suggest that body mass is a better predictor of energy requirements than body length, although length may be used in circumstances when mass cannot be estimated or measured. Of the parameters considered, model predictions were most sensitive to uncertainty in morphology, developmental stage, activity, and growth. By including flexibility in prediction and uncertainty in estimates, results extend the simple allometric scaling relationships with mass alone (e.g., Kleiber’s Equation), and refine estimates of marine mammal energy requirements currently available. Results serve as a useful starting point from which complex analyses can proceed, and provide a basis against which other models can be compared. The method provides an objective means for researchers and resource managers to select an equation most appropriate for their predictive needs, even for data-deficient species, given different levels of available input information. The empirical models are useful tools for parameterizing ecosystem models and can be used to help address ecological questions and issues pertaining to conservation and resource management.
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Human disturbance and the haulout behaviour of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
Kucey, L. 2005.
Graduate Thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. 75 pages
abstract
There is considerable interest in assessing and mitigating disruptive effects of humans on the behaviour of marine mammals, especially for species with uncertain or decreasing population trends. Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) have been under intensive study throughout their range over the past few decades in an attempt to identify the causes of a large population decline in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands. Consequently, disturbance due to scientific research has also increased at rookeries and haulouts. The purpose of my study was to determine if there were measurable short-term effects of human disturbance on the numbers of Steller sea lions using terrestrial sites. Numbers and composition of sea lions were documented for 2 – 3 week periods in southeast Alaska and British Columbia during summer (n = 8 sites) and winter / spring (n = 6 sites). They revealed considerable daily variation in numbers of sea lions hauled out within and among study sites that was related in part to prevailing environmental conditions. However, counts could not be corrected to account for environmental influences on the total numbers of sea lions using haulouts. Hauling out trends were examined for pre- and post-disturbance periods across multiple sites over two seasons. Predetermined research disturbances occurred to collect scats at the haulouts, and to brand pups at the rookery. Three methods were explored to assess local population recovery that addressed both quantitative and temporal aspects of sea lions returning to the study locations. Disturbances resulted in significantly fewer sea lions using haulouts during the post-disturbance period. Variation in the numbers of animals using the haulouts increased following the disturbance, but rates of change in daily numbers did not differ significantly between periods. Six of ten disturbed sites reached full recovery (100% of the pre-disturbance mean) on average 4.3 days after the research disturbance. To determine if individual behaviour was affected by disturbance, sea lions arriving on shore were followed to determine normal patterns of interactions and behaviour. Significant differences were noted in hauling out behaviour between animals that remained on land and those that returned to the water. Sea lions that returned to the water exhibited higher rates of behaviour and interactions with other animals during the week that followed the disturbance. Seasonal differences were also noted in the rates of behaviour and interactions that may be indicative of certain times of the year when sea lions are more sensitive to human presence and disturbance. Increasing levels of human–sea lion contact are expected as more and more people visit the remote coastal habitat of Steller sea lions. Future studies are needed to assess the influence of disturbance on sea lion redistribution within a critical recovery period, as well as to determine the physiological effects that sea lions experience with repeated human disturbance. Disturbance studies are an important aspect of conservation initiatives because they can help guide policies and establish restrictions to protect wild populations from human intrusion.
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Vocal culture and social stability in resident killer whales (Orcinus orca).
Yurk, H. 2005.
PhD Thesis, University of British Columbia. 126 pages
abstract
The killer whale (Orcinus orca) is one of the few species for which vocal culture is actively involved in the development and maintenance of the social organizations of populations. In particular, the social structure of one form of killer whales, called residents, is a good example of this involvement. Resident societies are characterized by associations of groups with highly stable membership, which allow an in-depth examination of the association between vocal culture and the nested social hierarchy of that population. Resident killer whales live in small populations where inbreeding is a threat to their genetic diversity. Genetic and cultural evolution may be closely linked in killer whales, as has been proposed for a number of other cetaceans with matrilineal social structure. To test for a possible link between genetic and cultural evolution in killer whales, I investigated vocal similarities and differences among mixing and non-mixing resident groups and between two ecotypes, residents and transients. First, I examined whether clans exist among resident killer whales in Southern Alaska. Vocal clans had been previously identified in British Columbia but not in Alaska. Two acoustically distinct clans were recognized, each of which was monomorphic for a different mitochondrial D- loop haplotype based on results of a separate genetic study. Thus, acoustic similarities within these cultural groups reflect common matrilineal ancestry, which suggests that clan-based social structure is a fixed characteristic of resident killer whales. Second, I examined the similarity of vocal repertoires between residents and transients, and among clans and communities within residents. Call type similarity does not exist above the clan level. To investigate vocal similarity above the clan level, I split calls into syllables, and compared their distribution among population levels. Structural variation of upper frequency syllables characterized vocal variation among clans of the same community, while usage of distinct lower frequency syllables reflected divisions among communities and between residents and transients. Third, I examined syntax, the ordered arrangement of syllables, among clans of resident communities. I found that vertical transmission of syllable order in matrilines is important for the distinctiveness of call type repertoires and leads to clan-specific syntax rules. Previous work has shown that mating mainly takes place between clans. Because syntax similarity appears to be negatively correlated with sociality among clans, resident killer whales may use syntax variation to choose mates with low levels of genetic relatedness. The link between vocal culture and social structure likely influences mate choice in resident killer whales. This link leads to gene-culture co-evolution in killer whales and makes them excellent candidates for studies of cultural taxonomy.
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2004
 
Marine mammals and human health in the eastern Bering Sea: Using an ecosystem-based food web model to track PCBs.
Coombs, A.P.,. 2004.
University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC. 91 pages
abstract
The comprehensive changes that have occurred in the Bering Sea over the last 30 years have prompted a wide range of studies to better understand the ecosystem as a whole. One set of studies has used the Ecopath with Ecosim (EwE) modelling software to synthesise existing biological data and gain insight into how the ecosystem was before and after the system-wide changes. This modelling framework provides a means for tracing contaminants through the ecosystem, and evaluating the role that persistent organic pollutants (POPs) may have played in the changing dynamics of the eastern Bering Sea. Using the EwE software, the likely pathways of PCB flow within the eastern Bering Sea were identified and health implications of contaminant exposure for Steller sea lions, other species of marine mammals, and humans were evaluated. The base EwE model was refined from existing models and validated with traditional stock assessment data. Ecotracer (a component of the EwE software) tracked th e bioaccumulation of contaminants moving through the system with biomass. The models estimated contaminant concentrations for species and functional groups that have not previously been measured. Results suggest that PCB concentrations for most species in the eastern Bering Sea have remained below threshold levels associated with negative reproduction and survival effects. However, these concentrations may have subtle effects on adults and more serious effects on foetuses and nursing young, which could inhibit the recovery of Steller sea lions and other species that have declined in the eastern Bering Sea. Although the benefits of traditional foods appear to continue to outweigh the risks posed by contaminants for humans, PCB exposure and dietary intake for many Alaska Natives subsisting on marine mammals is above the USEPA Daily Reference Dose. Results extend the existing eastern Bering Sea models and are important in terms of management alternatives for marine mammals and human health. They also synthesise evidence regarding the pr! esence, extent, and movement of PCBs throughout the system. The refined eastern Bering Sea models are useful tools for exploring different scenarios and hypotheses, to inform resource managers, and to further our understanding of this ecosystem.
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Seasonal Abundance, Distribution and Prey Species of Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) in Southern Vancouver Island Waters.
Hall, A.M. 2004.
In Department of Zoology. University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C. 109 pages
abstract
Harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) occur year round in the waters of southern British Columbia, but little is known about their seasonal abundance, habitat use and food habits. A systematic vessel-based line transect survey was undertaken to quantitatively assess seasonal trends in harbour porpoise abundance and distribution within the Canadian waters of Juan de Fuca and Haro Straits (08 September 2001 to 31 August 2002). These data were supplemented with opportunistic counts (1995-1996, 1998-2001) and stomach contents from post-mortem stranded porpoise (1998-2001). The study area encompassed 805.3 km 2 ; with a total transect length of 1838.4 km. Data collection was restricted to Beaufort 0 and 1 sea conditions, and abundance was estimated using DISTANCE 3.5 software. Encounter rates observed from April to October were significantly higher than from the rest of the year. Seasonal abundance estimates (corrected for visual radial distance estimation) ranged from a high of 673 porpoise from April-October (CV=20.5%, 95% CI 450 - 1006) and declined to 208 porpoise from November-March (CV=37.5%, 95% CI 101 - 429). Harbour porpoise were not uniformly distributed within the study area. Localized areas of high counts may represent critical porpoise habitats. A bimodal distribution of stranding frequency corresponded to the period of increased abundance. Ten adult and five immature harbour porpoise stomachs were examined (8 males and 7 females). Fish bones and otoliths were identified to species. Each stomach contained only a single species of piscine prey (n=5). No cephalopod beaks or eye lenses were present. Specimens from south Vancouver Island contained sand lance (Ammodytes hexapterus), with the one from the southeast coast containing Pacific hake (Merluccius productus), and the one from the southwest coast containing Pacific herring (Clupea pallasi).
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Modelling and mapping resource overlap between marine mammals and fisheries on a global scalemarine mammals and fisheries on a global scale.
Kaschner, K. 2004.
PhD Thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC. 225 pages
abstract
Potential competition for food resources between marine mammals and fisheries has been an issue of much debate in recent years. Given the almost cosmopolitan distributions of many marine mammal species, investigations conducted at small geographic scales may, however, result in a distorted perception of the extent of the problem. Unfortunately, the complexity of marine food webs and the lack of reliable data about marine mammal diets, abundances, food intake rates etc., currently preclude the assessment of competition at adequately large scales. In contrast, the investigation of global resource overlap between marine mammals and fisheries (i.e., the extent to which both players exploit the same type of food resources in the same areas) may, however, be easier to achieve and provide some useful insights in this context. Information about the occurrence of species is a crucial pre-requisite to assess resource overlap and also to address other marine mammal conservation issues. However, the delineation of ranges of marine mammals is challenging, due to the vastness of the ocean environment and the difficulties associated with surveying most species. Consequently, existing maps of large-scale distributions are mostly limited to subjective outlines of maximum range extents, with little additional information about heterogeneous patterns of occurrence within these ranges. I developed a new, more objective approach to map global geographic ranges and the relative environmental suitability (RES) for 115 marine mammal species. This habitat suitability model is a rule- based environmental envelope model that can utilize not only quantitative data, but also alternative, non-quantitative and more readily available information about species habitat preferences (such as expert knowledge). As a first step, I assigned each species to broad-scale ecological niche categories with respect to depth, sea surface temperature and ice edge association based on synopses of published qualitative and quantitative habitat preference information. Within a global grid with 0.5 degree latitude by 0.5 degree longitude cell dimensions, I then generated an index of the relative environmental suitability (RES) of each cell for a given species by relating quantified habitat preferences to locally averaged environmental conditions in a GIS modeling framework. RES predictions closely matched published distributions for most species, suggesting that this rule-based approach for delineating range extents represents a useful, less subjective alternative to existing sketched distributional outlines. In addition, raster-based predictions provided information about heterogeneous patterns of the relative suitability of the environment and potential core habitat for each species throughout its range. I validated RES model outputs for four species (northern fur seals, harbor porpoises, sperm whales and Antarctic minke whales) from a broad taxonomic and geographic range using ‚at-sea™ sightings from dedicated surveys. Observed relative encounter rates and species-specific predicted environmental suitability were significantly and positively correlated for all species. In comparison, observed encounter rates were positively correlated with < 3 % of 1000 simulated random data sets of species occurrence. To validate the RES predictions for data-deficient species such as beaked whales (Ziphiidae, Cetacea), I developed a different evaluation approach using stranding records as an alternative type of test data. Ziphiids represent one of the least known families of mammals, primarily known from strandings, along with only a few known ‘at-sea’ records for each species. Using a global data set of residual ocean currents, I developed a simulation model of ziphiid strandings and used this to generate relative probabilities of strandings along all coastlines. Predictions were generated based on two different input distributions: species-specific RES predictions and uniform distributions based on published information, which served as the null model. Large-scale patterns of simulated strandings based on RES predictions produced significant correlations with observed strandings for five times as many species (10 of 21 ziphiid species) as those generated based on the null model (2/21), suggesting that RES predictions represent an improvement over existing simple outlines. The extensive validation provided support that RES predictions capture patterns of species occurrence sufficiently enough to be used as the basis for large-scale investigations of marine mammal-fisheries interactions. I therefore used the model to assess the importance of spatial aspects for the investigation of overlap between marine mammals and fisheries in terms of food resource exploitation. To assess spatially-explicit resource overlap, I first estimated global annual food intake (specified by food types) for each species based on a basic food consumption model. This model required information about global population abundances, sex-specific mean weights, standardized diet compositions, and weight-specific feeding rates, which was obtained through the compilation, screening and processing of more than 2000 publications. By linking species-specific RES predictions with estimated consumption for each species, I generated spatially-explicit food consumption rates (expressed as food intake per km2 per year). Superimposing geographically disaggregated fisheries catches (generated by a similar model) allowed me to calculate overlap between catches and consumption with respect to both the composition of food types and areas where food / catches were taken. The model indicated that, in the 1990s, average consumption by all marine mammal species combined was several times higher than total fisheries catches during the same time period. However, effective spatial overlap and exploitation of the same food types was relatively low, suggesting that actual competition between fisheries and marine mammals may be much lower than proposed. I predicted the highest resource overlap in the temperate to subpolar shelf regions of both hemispheres, though overlap is more pronounced in the North. Overall, < 15 % of all fisheries catches and < 1% of all estimated marine mammal food consumption stem from areas of high predicted overlap. Nevertheless, overlap between marine mammals and fisheries may be an issue of concern on smaller scales (especially for species with small feeding distributions) that requires more detailed, local investigations. I propose that mapping of suitable habitat for marine mammals using the new RES model is useful for evaluating current assumptions and knowledge about species™ occurrences, especially for data-poor species. Generated hypotheses about suitable habitat and species™ occurrences may help to focus research efforts on smaller geographic scales, and usefully supplement other, statistical habitat suitability models. Furthermore, the mapping of food consumption rates and geographical 'hotspots' of marine mammal-fisheries interactions will help to identify potential areas of highest conflict and may aid the development of management approaches at appropriate scales.
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Seasonal differences in physiology of captive Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in response to short-term low energy intake.
Kumagai, S. 2004.
University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC. 95 pages
abstract

Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) were fed restricted iso-caloric amounts of Pacific herring (Clupea pallasi) or walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) for 8-9 days, four times a year. At these levels, the sea lions lost an average of 10.1% of their initial body mass while on both experimental diets for up to nine days, but at a significantly higher rate in winter and at a lower rate in summer. Decreases in body fat mass and standard metabolic rates during the trials were similar throughout the seasons and for both diets. Metabolic depression was not always observed during the trials despite the constant loss of body mass. Changes in cortisol, triiodothyronine and blood urea nitrogen (BUN) were seasonally dependent. Over the course of the trials, serum levels of cortisol and BUN increased and total triiodothyronine decreased the most in winter. Serum cortisol levels correlated negatively with both body mass and body condition suggesting that cortisol may play an important role in body fat regulation in Steller sea lions. The mean ghrelin level in Steller sea lions correlated negatively with body mass, but ghrelin did not correlate with serum leptin. My findings support the hypothesis that restricted energy intake at different times of the year differentially affects Steller sea lions, and that diet type (herring or pollock) may have seasonally-specific effects on body mass and composition. Steller sea lions may be more severely impacted by reduced energy intake in winter than at other times of the year.

Changes in iron binding capacity were significantly greater in the herring-fed group than in the pollock-fed group, and a significantly greater decrease occurred in winter and spring compared to summer and fall. Iron saturation increased in the herring-fed group and decreased in the group fed pollock. These results suggested a potential anemia from a reduced diet of pollock in Steller sea lions. Serum iron, phosphorus, hematocrit and gamma glutamyltransferase showed consistent changes during food restriction, suggesting that these may serve as indicators of nutritional stress in Steller sea lions.


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2003
 
Krill and the Antarctic: finding the balance.
Bredesen, E.L. 2003.
In Department of Zoology. University of British Columbia, Vancouver. 98 pages
abstract
The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) has a mandate to manage Southern Ocean resources using an ecosystem approach. In accordance with this, ecosystem models of the South Orkneys/South Georgia region (FAO Subareas 48.2 and 48.3, respectively) were constructed using the modelling software Ecopath with Ecosim. A model representing the region in the 1990s was used to assess the possible effects that an increased fishery for krill (Euphausia superba) might have on the ecosystem. The model predicted that the expanded fishery could cause small declines in the biomass of several top predators (<10%), such as Antarctic fur seals and baleen whales, and that bycatch in the krill trawl fishery could reduce some fish populations by almost 35%. Incorporating the natural annual variation in krill biomass into the model showed that predator populations could be negatively affected by years of low krill abundance, which would be further exacerbated by an increased krill fishery. The model also indicated that the traditional concept of the simple Southern Ocean food chain (i.e., primary production, krill, top predator) should be re-evaluated to consider other important intermediary species groups, such as fish and squid. Models representing the region in the past (pre-exploitation, 1900s and 1960s) were used to assess the impacts of commercial sealing, whaling and fishing in the region. Simulations suggest that the increase in Antarctic fur seals since the 1950s was not due to decreased competition for food as a result of the whaling activities in the first half of the 1900s. However, whaling may have had a positive effect on fish population sizes, especially certain commercially important species. Removing large krill predators from the simulated ecosystem, such as birds and seals, did not result in an increase in whales. Removing certain fish groups, however, had more of an acceleratory effect on whale recovery. These findings emphasize the need for a better understanding of the relative roles of species in the Southern Ocean ecosystem, as well as the natural variability of krill abundance, if management issues in the Antarctic are to be resolved.
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The timing of moulting in wild and captive Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
Daniel, R.G. 2003.
University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C. 64 pages
abstract
I documented the timing and progression of the moult by sex and age class in a wild population of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) on Lowrie Island, Alaska (Jul-Nov 2001) and from captive animals at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre (1993-2000). In the wild, juveniles (ages 1-2 years) were the first to moult followed by adult females, bulls and pups. The mean date when juveniles started their moult was 21 Jun which was significantly different from the mean start date of 07 Aug for adult females, and differed from the mean start date for pups of 01 Sep (one month later). Mean completion dates were also about one month apart (19 Sept for juveniles, 26 Oct for adult females and 17 Nov for pups). Duration of the moult was about 45 days for each age group (pups and adult females). However, duration of the moult for captive sea lions was longer (averaging 83.5 days) and differed among years and within age classes. Patterns of hair loss in the wild (i.e., the progression of the moult over the body surface) differed among (i) pups, (ii) juveniles and early moulting adult females, and (iii) bulls and later moulting adult females. Differences in the timing and progression of the moult may be related to physiological changes and interactions of hormones associated with body condition and the reproductive cycle.
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2002
 
Seasonal variation in nutrient composition of Alaskan walleye pollock (Theragara chalcogramma) and its effects on the nutritional status of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
Azana, C.D.P. 2002.
MSc Thesis, University of British Columbia. 109 pages
abstract
Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in the Gulf of Alaska declined since the late 1970s. Their population decline might be related to a shift in their diet fiom fatty, high-calorie fishes such as herring (Elupea palhi) to low energy density fish such as walleye pollock (Theragma chalcogrumma). I compared the nutritional value of herring with pollock and explored seasonal changes in the nutrient content of pollock. I also compared the nutritional status of three captive Steller sea lions fed pollock and herring. Hemng was a more concentrated in dietary lipid (p<0.001) and energy source (p<0.001) than pollock. The protein of herring was also higher in digestibility (p=0.015) than pollock protein, which could indicate that even if ingested energy was equal in both diets, absorbed energy for body knctions may be reduced when pollock is eaten. There was little difference in the protein quality of pollock and herring with the exception that valine was more abundant in herring (p=0.004). The energy content,of pollock changed seasonally, with the peak in energy concentration occurring in the summer and fall (July to November) and then declining over the winter prior to spawning. Captive Steller sea lions lost mass or increased mass at a slower rate on a pollock diet than when they consumed hemng, at which time, they all increased in mass. The sea lions had lower levels of plasma cholesterol when fed pollock. Their red blood cells were also more susceptible to oxidation, which corresponded with lower plasma vitamin E levels. These findings suggest that consumption of predominantly pollock has nutritional consequences for the Steller sea lion. Even if they are able to increase their caloric intake to maintain their body mass, Steller sea lions may still be more susceptible to disease originating from oxidative stress.
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Seasonal abundance and distribution of marine mammals in the southern Strait of Georgia, British Columbia.
Keple, A.R. 2002.
MSc Thesis, University of British Columbia.
abstract
The Strait of Georgia is a highly productive region and among the most important marine systems in British Columbia. It is at the mouth of the Fraser River, one of the most productive river systems in North America. Marine mammals are apex predators in this system, with at least ten species using the area during all or part of the year. Line transect surveys aboard B.C. Ferries vessels were conducted from May 1, 2000 to April 30, 2001 to determine the distribution and abundance of marine mammal species in the Strait of Georgia. A total of 2,879 individuals, representing nine species, were seen in 898 sightings. Harbour seals (n = 1,629), California sea lions (n = 415), Dall’s porpoise (n = 397) and Steller sea lions (n = 205) were the most frequently observed, accounting for 92% of the sightings. Pacific white-sided dolphins (n = 110), harbour porpoise (n = 71), killer whales (n = 49), gray whales (n = 2), and a minke whale were also seen during the surveys. Abundance estimates were highest in spring and lowest in winter, with a second smaller peak in abundance in autumn. Pinnipeds were estimated to consume the most prey due to high population estimates for harbour seals and large body size of adult male sea lions. Peaks in marine mammal abundances appear to coincide with seasonal physical and biological factors in the Strait of Georgia and Fraser River system that may influence the availability of prey species.
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Modeling the energetics of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) along the Oregon coast.
Malavear, M. Y. G. 2002.
M.Sc thesis, Newport, Oregon, USA. 124 pages
abstract
A dynamic bioenergetic model for Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) was built using the STELLA simulation modeling system. The model is intended as an aid for the exploration of ecological questions regarding growth and survival of immature Steller sea lions (ages 1-3) living along the Oregon coast under different nutritional scenarios. The ultimate goals were: 1) to identify features of the Oregon ecosystem that could contribute to the growth of the Steller sea lion population in contrast to the declining population in Alaska and 2) to provide a basis for examining the various hypotheses that have been put forward regarding the causes of the Steller sea lion decline in Alaska. The dynamic energetic model was composed of coupled submodels, created or adapted from the literature, that describe the energetic inputs and outputs of the animal. It is a mechanistic model based on biological principles that attempts to describe the connections and feedbacks between the different components and the allocation of energy to them under suboptimal nutrition. The model predicted that both changes in prey abundance and quality would have a more pronounced effect in one-year-old animals than in two- and three-year-old sea lions. A reduction in prey density could delay the attainment of sexual maturity, and this could have a significant negative effect on the population rate of increase. The seasonal migration of Pacific whiting was shown to be very important as a biomass influx into the system. In general, the model predictions were consistent with observations on the declining population of Steller sea lions in Alaska.
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2001
 
Possible effects of pollock and herring on the growth and reproductive success of Steller sea lions: insights from feeding experiments using an alternative animal model, Rattus novegicus.
Donnelly, C.P. 2001.
MSc Thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. 76 pages
abstract
The decline of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in the Gulf of Alaska appears to have been associated with a switch of diet fiom one dominated by fatty forage fishes (such as herring - Clupea pallasi) to one dominated by low fat fish (such as pollock – Theragra chalcogramma). Observations made during the decline include reduced body size of sea lions, low pregnancy rates, poor fur quality and high mortality. I used the general mammalian model, Rattus nowegicus, to test whether changes in size and reproductive performance could be caused by a switch in the quality of prey consumed. I fed five groups of 12 female, weanling rats diets composed of herring (H), pollock (P), pollock supplemented with herring oil (PH), pollock supplemented with pollock oil (PP), or a semi-purified diet (ICN). Mean body weights were greatest for H, followed by PH, P, PP and finally ICN, although ICN was the only group significantly different from the others. Food intakes prior to mating were 10% higher for groups on the lower fat diets (P and ICN), resulting in similar caloric intakes in all groups. Efficiency of energy utilization was also similar for all fish diets. However, this efficiency was slightly reduced when pollock was supplemented with oil (PP and PH) compared to pollock alone. The protein efficiency ratio (PER) was highest for the H diet, slightly lower for all pollock diets, and significantly lower for ICN. Rats fed the low energy P and ICN meals did not compensate by consuming more during gestation. The fetal weights for mothers fed pollock (P) were significantly reduced. This study shows that the caloric content was a major limiting factor in the nutritional quality of pollock. If food intake was adjusted to meet energetic requirements, there were no detrimental consequences to eating pollock. However, supplementation of pollock meal with additional pollock oil may reduce growth and reproductive performance, although the reasons for this were not apparent.
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Heart rate as a monitor for metabolic rate in captive juvenile Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
McPhee, C.P. 2001.
MSc Thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC. 86 pages
abstract
The potential use of heart rate to monitor energy expenditure in free-ranging Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) was investigated by establishing whether a relationship exists between heart rate (fH) and oxygen consumption ( ) in captive sea lions while swimming and resting. Four trained Steller sea lions (2 males and 2 females; mass 87.4 -194.4 kg; ages 16 months–3 years) were equipped with a datalogger and two dorsal electrodes to record ECG (from which fH was calculated). Four styles of electrodes were developed and tested before selecting a final subcutaneous design. (measured with open-circuit respirometry) was simultaneously recorded while the previously-fasted animal was at rest within an enclosed dry metabolic chamber or while it swam in an enclosed swim mill against water currents of various speeds (0-1.5 m.s-1). The mean regression equation describing the relationship between fH (beats.min-1) and (ml.min-1.kg-0.73) for all four animals was = (0.68fH ± 0.07 s.e.) – (15.07 ± 6.20) (r2=0.72, p<0.01). The possibility that the fH/ relationship could be affected by digestion was investigated by feeding one of the male Steller sea lions either 6 or 12 kg of herring prior to entering the swim mill. increased over time after ingestion, while heart rate usually remained stable or decreased. The resulting relationship, = (0.24fH ± 0.03) – (18.49 ± 02.68) (r2=0.19, p<0.01), differed significantly from the relationship derived while the animal was fasted, indicating that digestion may alter the relationship between fH and . Fasting and feeding intervals must therefore be taken into account when considering the use of fH/ relationships to estimate energy expenditure from heart rate of free-ranging sea lions. The relationship demonstrated between fH and while fasting suggests that heart rate can potentially be used to monitor energy consumption in free-ranging Steller sea lions. However, additional research should be conducted to further elucidate how the relationship is affected by such factors as digestion, sex, stress, and development.
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2000
 
An analysis of historic (1908-1967) whaling records from British Columbia, Canada.
Gregr, E.J. 2000.
MSc thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC. 104 pages
abstract
Analysis of data recorded from 24,862 whales killed by British Columbia coastal whaling stations between 1908 and 1967 revealed trends in the abundance, sex ratios, age structure and the distance from shore of sperm (Physeter macrocephalus), sei (Balaenoptera borealis), fin (Balaenoptera physalus), humpback (Megaptera novaeangliae) and blue (Balaenoptera musculus) whales. Trends in the relationships between records of where the whales were killed (n=10,275) and a simple oceanographic mode l were used to build generalized linear models, from which predictions of whale habitat were generated. The catch data were analyzed using annual and monthly mean values. Monthly and annual variation in whaling effort was deduced from accounts of the history of British Columbia coastal whaling, and biases arising from changes in effort were considered in the interpretation of the results. Predictive habitat models were produced at annual and monthly time scales based on an initial analysis of the univariate relationships between whale presence-absence and six independent predictor variables (depth, slope, depth class, sea surface temperature and salinity, and month). During the later years of whaling (1948 to 1967), the mean lengths of captured whales declined significantly in all five species and pregnancy rates dropped to near zero in fin, sei and blue whales. Monthly patterns in numbers killed revealed a summer migration of sei and blue whales past Vancouver Island, and confirms anecdotal suggestions that local populations of fin and humpback whales once spent extended periods in the coastal waters of British Columbia. Furthermore, the data strongly suggest that sperm whales mated (April-May) and calved (July-August) in British Columbia’s offshore waters. The habitat models showed that the continental slope and a large area off the northwest coast Vancouver Island may represent critical habitat for sei, fin and male sperm whales. Female sperm whales, blue and humpback whales appeared less sensitive to the predictor variables, however, the sample size for these groups was significantly smaller than for the other species. The habitat predictions lend support to the hypotheses regarding sperm whale breeding and predict humpback whale habitat in sheltered bays and straits throughout coastal British Columbia. The habitat models also generated hypotheses about the relationships and processes that link these whale species to their environment. The historic whaling records reveal much about the migratory behaviour and distribution of the large whales species as they once were, and may continue to be, in the Northeast Pacific. Verifying the persistence of these trends in the remnant populations is a necessary and logical next step.
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Growth and bioenergetic models for Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in Alaska.
Winship, A.J. 2000.
MSc Thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC. 160 pages
abstract
The primary goal of my study was to develop a bioenergetic model to predict the food requirements of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus). An important component of the bioenergetic model was a physical growth model. Growth models were constructed using morphometric measurements of males (≥ 1 year old), females (≥ 1 year old), and pregnant females with a foetus that had been shot on rookeries, haulouts, and in the coastal waters of southeastern Alaska, the Gulf of Alaska and along the Bering Sea ice edge between 1976 and 1989. A Richards model best described age related growth in body length and mass. Males grew (in length) over a longer period than females and exhibited a growth spurt in mass which coincided with sexual maturity. Sexual dimorphism in both body length and mass was significant by 3 years of age. The average predicted standard lengths of males and females older than 12 years were 3.04 m and 2.32 m respectively, while the average predicted weights were 681 kg and 273 kg respectively. Residuals of the size at age models indicated seasonal changes in growth rates. Young animals (<6 years old) and adult males grew little during the breeding season (May - July), and adult males did not resume growth until sometime after November. The bioenergetic model was used to estimate the food requirements of the Alaskan Steller sea lion population in the 1990’s and to examine how these food requirements varied seasonally and spatially. Input included age/sex-specific energy requirements, population size/composition, and diet composition/energy content by date and region of Alaska. Error in model predictions was calculated using uncertainty in parameter values and Monte Carlo simulation methods. Food requirements were generally lowest in the summer and highest in the winter and spring mainly due to changes in activity budgets and the energy content of the diet. The mean daily food requirement of pregnant females was only marginally greater than the mean daily food requirement of non-pregnant females of the same age, but the mean daily food requirement of females nursing pups was about 70% greater than females of the same age without pups. Per capita population food requirements differed by up to 12% among regions of Alaska due to differences in the energy content of the diet. Steller sea lion predation was small relative to total walleye pollock natural mortality, but accounted for a large part of total Atka mackerel natural mortality. Of the bioenergetic, population, and diet parameters, uncertainty in bioenergetic parameters resulted in the largest error in model predictions. The model provided both a quantitative estimate of the Alaskan Steller sea lion population’s food requirements and direction for future research.
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1999
 
Behaviour of lactating stellar sea lions (eumetopias jubatus) during breeding season : a comparison between a declining and stable population in Alaska.
Milette, L.L. 1999.
MSc Thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. 67 pages
abstract
Female attendance patterns and activity budgets of Alaskan Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) were compared at two sites using scan sampling over two summer breeding seasons in 1994 and 1995 at Sugarloaf Island (a declining population) and Lowrie Island (a stable population). The goal was to document female behaviour and to determine whether there were behavioural differences between the two sites that were consistent with the hypothesis that Steller sea lions in the area of population decline were foodlimited. The perinatal period (time from birth of pup to the mother's first feeding trip) averaged 10.1 days in the area of population decline compared to 8.0 days in the stable area, counter to initial predictions. The first shore visit following the perinatal period was significantly longer in the area of population decline compared to the stable population. Females from both populations exhibited a diel haul out pattern where the majority of returns and departures to and from the rookery occurred between 1800 - 0600 hours. Similarly, the mean length of female foraging trips at both populations increased as their pups grew older, whereas shore visits became shorter. Foraging trips were significantly shorter in the area of population decline, again countering initial predictions. The mean length of maternal foraging trips in the area of population decline was 19.0 hours compared to 25.6 hours for the stable population. In contrast, shore visits and the perinatal period were significantly longer in the area of decline, again countering initial predictions. The mean length of shore visits for the declining population was 26.9 hours compared to 22.6 hours where the population was stable. The average foraging-attendance cycle for both populations was 47.1 hours. Maternal attendance patterns responded in a similar way between years. Activity budgets for the proportion of time spent at sea during daylight observations were consistent with the maternal attendance results. Lactating females in the area of population decline spent less time foraging at sea (35.9 %) than females from the stable population (46.4 %). More time was spent resting ashore in the area of population decline (49.6 %) compared to the stable population (38.9 %). Females from the area of population decline spent more time suckling their pups and were twice as aggressive compared to the females from the stable population. Overall, lactating females from both populations spent a consistent 85 % of their time foraging at sea and resting onshore. Mothers from both populations spent an average of 36.7 % of their total time with pups. A comparison of female Steller sea lions to other female otariid and phocid species showed that the partitioning of activities is related to differences in lactation strategies, social organization, predation, or thermoregulation. Behavioural observations of maternal attendance patterns and activity budgets are not consistent with the hypothesis that Steller sea lions at the declining site in the Gulf of Alaska have greater difficulty obtaining prey compared to the stable population in southeast Alaska.
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Behavioural responses of killer whales to whale-watching: opportunistic observations and experimental approaches.
Williams, R.M. 1999.
MSc thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC. 68 pages
abstract
Johnstone Strait provides important summer habitat for British Columbia’s northern resident killer whales (Orcinus orca). The site is also an active whale-watching area. A voluntary code of conduct recommends that boaters do not approach whales closer than 100 m to address perceived, rather than demonstrated, effects of boat traffic on killer whales. The purpose of my study was to test the relevance of this guideline. Relationships between boat traffic and whale behaviour were studied in 1995 and 1996 by shore-based theodolite tracking of 25 identifiable focal animals from the population of 209 whales. Individual killer whales were repeatedly tracked in the absence of boats and during approaches by a 5.2 m motorboat that paralleled each whale at 100 m. In addition, whales were tracked opportunistically, when no effort was made to manipulate boat traffic. Dive times, swim speeds, and surface active behaviours such as breaching and spyhopping were recorded. Male killer whales swam significantly faster than females. Whales responded to experimental approaches by adopting a less predictable path than observed during the preceding, no-boat period, although males and females employed subtly different avoidance tactics. Females responded by swimming faster and increasing the angle between successive dives, whereas males maintained their speed and chose a smooth, but less direct, path. Canonical correlations between whale behaviour and vessel proximity are consistent with these conclusions, which suggests that weakening whale-watching guidelines, or not enforcing them, would result in higher levels of disturbance. High variability in whale behaviour underscores the importance of experimental studies when assessing behavioural impacts of human activity on killer whales.
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1998
 
Stability and Change of Killer Whale Orcinus orca) Dialects.
Deecke, Volker B. 1998.
In Department of Zoology. University of British Columbia, Vancouver. 114 pages
abstract

Vocal dialects have been described in many species, but most studies so far have focused on territorial species such as songbirds and humans. This study investigates patterns of structural variation in the stereotyped calls of 9 matrilineal units of killer whales (Orcinus orca ) with congruent home ranges. In Chapter I, I describe an index of acoustic similarity based on neural network analysis of frequency contours. I test this index on simulated signals, and compare it to similarity ratings from three human subjects. The index could discriminate along global differences in contour frequency, as well as localized differences in frequency and shape. It rated similarity comparably to humans, since differences between ratings among subjects exceeded differences between subject ratings and the neural network index. In the second Chapter, I analyse 2 call types used by 2 groups over a 12 year period to identify mechanisms of vocal differentiation. A test for structural modification detected significant changes in one call type in both groups, but not in the other. The rate of differentiation between both groups was significantly lower for the modified call type than the rate of modification in one group showing that modifications are transmitted between groups. Results of an analysis of structural parameters are consistent with a theory of structural drift.

In Chapter III, I quantify patterns of structural variation for 4 call types shared by 9 matrilineal units. Patterns are consistent across some call types, and similarity ratings for two call types are correlated with the frequency of association among groups. This presents additional evidence for the role of cultural transmission in maintaining structural similarity of shared calls.

This study shows that discrete calls of killer whales are modifiable behavioural traits and transmitted through learning. Since multiple vocal traditions persist in spite of frequent acoustic contact between their members, this study presents evidence for selective copying in resident killer whales. If association patterns reflect kinship among matrilineal units as they do among individuals and among communities, similarity of shared call types indicates the degree of maternal relatedness, and may function in kin recognition or mate choice.


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1997
 
Winter ecology of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in Alaska.
Porter, B. 1997.
MSc Thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC. 84 pages
abstract
The goal of this study was to describe aspects of the winter ecology of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) from behavioural observations made at a winter haulout between January and April 1996 in Southeast Alaska (Timbered Island, 133° 48’ W, 55° 41’ 45” N). My major hypotheses were: 1) Mothers suckle male offspring more than female offspring, and spend less time on shore to provide for the higher metabolic needs of males. 2) Mothers with yearlings have higher demands than those with pups and should spend more time nursing and more time at sea foraging. Another important goal was to describe the weaning process. Mature females and their dependent young (pups age < 1 y and yearlings 1-2 y) predominated on the winter haulout while, numbers of mature male and sub-adult males remained low. There was considerable variability in numbers of animals on shore from one day to the next. A Drop-one Stepwise regression showed numbers on shore were correlated with weather and sea conditions. The ranked order of important variables included: wave height, air temperature, wind’ speed, wind direction, sky cover, barometric pressure, ocean swell, and tide height. Haul-out patterns were negatively correlated with poor weather and rough sea conditions. No diurnal haul-out pattern was detected. Two measures of maternal investment were made: the time spent suckling by different sex and age class (pups and yearlings), and the time their mothers spent on land and at sea foraging. Differences between the average length of male pup-suckling bouts (x = 37.2 ±2.8 min. SE, n=12) were not significantly longer than female suckling time (x = 35.9 ± 2.3 min., n=12). However, yearlings suckled significantly longer (x = 44.0 ± 2.8 min.SE, n=5) than pups (x = 36.5 ± 1.8 min., n=24). Males spent an average of 33.9% (± 1.1 SE) of the time they were with their mothers onshore suckling compared to 29.9% (± 4.4) by female offspring, but the difference was not statistically significant, and the proportions did not change during the 3 month study period. Average trips to sea by mothers with yearlings lasted 2.3 d (x = 59.7 ± 4.7 h SE, n=6) and were significantly longer than the 1.9 d average trips of mothers with pups (x =48.0 ± 6.3 h, n=18). Mothers with male pups (< 1 y) were away for an average of 2.2 d (x = 52.5 ± 15.2 h SE, n=12) compared to 1.8 d (x = 43.5 ± 12.6 h, n=12) for those with female pups. Mothers spent an average of 35.2 h (± 7.0) on land with male offspring and 34.5 h (± 6.0) with females before departing on foraging trips. Mature females (n=30) showed little seasonal variation in trip duration. Shore visits averaged 19.4 h between trips to sea (n=30, SE=0.90, range 11.2-29.2h). Differences in time spent on shore between offspring genders and age classes were not statistically significant. Lactating females spent an average of 14.2 ± 1.1% SE (n=30) of their time on shore while immature animals spent three times as long (40.2 ± 2.1%). Average rotation time (feeding/resting cycle) from sea to the haulout by mature females was 3.0 days and was consistent through the season. Weaning of pups and juveniles was not observed between January and April. Haul-out patterns during the winter were influenced more by disturbance, sea and weather conditions than by endogenous rhythms.
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1996
 
Genetic analysis of eastern Pacific harbour seals (Phoca vitulina richardsi) from British Columbia and parts of Alaska using mitochondrial DNA and microsatellites.
Burg, T.M. 1996.
MSc thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC. 77 pages
abstract
In British Columbia the population of harbour seals, Phoca vitulina richardsi, has increased from 9,000 to 135,000 since their protection 25 years ago. Differences in pelage patterns and pupping times suggest that more than one population of harbour seals may be present in the eastern Pacific. Molecular analyses were used to investigate the genetic diversity and population structure of harbour seals along the B.C. coast and in parts of Alaska. The allele frequency at seven microsatellite loci and the haplotypic diversity of the mitochondrial control region (D-loop) were examined. A 475 base pair fragment containing the tRNA proline and part of the mitochondrial control region was amplified and sequenced from 128 animals. Sixty variable sites defined 72 mtDNA haplotypes with pairwise nucleotide differences as high as 5%. Only 14 haplotypes were shared between two or more seals. Some of the more frequent haplotypes were unique to specific areas, while others were distributed over a broad geographic range. Three groups representing the southern Strait of Georgia, southern B.C. and northern B.C./southeast Alaska were observed using parsimony and distance based phylogenetic reconstruction. Additional analyses using sequences from Washington and California revealed the presence of another population comprising the outer coast of Washington, Oregon and California. The order of the clades suggests that the Pacific Ocean was colonized twice. The first invasion occurred approximately 0.67 MYA and represents only a small portion of today's harbour seals in southern Vancouver Island. Seals from the second invasion, about 0.38 MYA, are distributed throughout the Pacific. Analyses of five polymorphic microsatellite loci show that the allele frequency distribution is significantly different in southern British Columbia and northern British Columbia/Alaska. Average heterozygosity was similar for northern and southern populations, however the allelic diversity was higher in the southern population. The migration rate for males based on microsatellite data (3-7 seals1 generation) was higher than that obtained for females from the mtDNA (0.3 females1 generation). This suggests that although migration rates are low they are sufficient to allow gene flow between the two populations.
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Non-Refereed Publications


2018
 
Availability of prey for southern resident killer whales. Technical workshop proceedings. November 15 - 17, 2017.
Trites, A.W. and D.A.S. Rosen (Eds.). 2018.
Marine Mammal Research Unit, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C. pp. 64
abstract
This workshop assembled scientists and managers with technical expertise on killer whales and Chinook salmon to identify and evaluate short-term management actions that might increase the immediate abundance and accessibility of Chinook salmon for southern resident killer whales, given the current size of Chinook salmon stocks. The workshop did not consider ways of producing more Chinook salmon (which will be the subject of a subsequent workshop), but rather considered ways of making more of the fish that are presently in the ocean available to southern resident killer whales (SRKW). Workshop participants presented and discussed technical information on the prey requirements of SRKW, the availability of Chinook salmon, and current protections for SRKW. Participants then split into four groups with an even distribution of expertise to evaluate three potential non- exclusive Management Actions: 1) Increase the abundance of Chinook for SRKW by reducing coast-wide fishery removals; 2) Increase the abundance of Chinook for SRKW by adjusting fishery removals at specific times and in specific areas of SRWK habitat; and 3) Increase the accessibility of Chinook by decreasing underwater noise and the physical presence of vessels where SRKW forage.

keywords     killer whales, southern resident, prey, availability, abundance, accessibility, noise, disturbance, fishing, commercial, recreational, Chinook, salmon
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2009
 
Predator-prey relationships.
Trites, A.W. 2009.
In B. Wursig W.F. Perrin (ed.), Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals. Academic Press, San Diego. pp. 933-936.
abstract
Marine mammal predator – prey interactions occur over different spatial and temporal scales, making it difficult to empirically decipher the influences they have on one another and on their ecosystems. However, their coexistence suggests that marine mammal predators and their prey have had profound influences on each other’s behaviors, physiologies, morphologies, and life-history strategies. The diversity of niches filled by marine mammals makes it difficult to generalize about the evolutionary consequences of their interactions with prey, beyond stating the obvious: marine mammals have adapted to catch food, while their prey have adapted to avoid being caught. On the shorter ecological time scale, marine mammals can affect the abundance of other species by consuming or outcompeting them. They can also indirectly affect the abundance of nontargeted species by consuming one of their predators, and can have strong impacts on the overall dynamics and structure of their ecosystems. One of the best tools for understanding marine mammal predator – prey interactions is the ecosystem model. However, more work is required through experimental manipulations and observational studies to evaluate the choices made by marine mammals and the costs of obtaining different species of prey.
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2008
 
Economic valuation of critical habitat closures.
Berman, M., E.J. Gregr, G. Ishimura, R. Coatta, R. Flinn, U.R. Sumaila and A.W. Trites. 2008.
In Fisheries Centre Research Reports. Vol 16(8) pp. 102
abstract
We developed methods to estimate the spatial variation in economic values of ocean fisheries, and applied the methods to estimate the cost of closing groundfish fisheries in Steller sea lion Critical Habitat in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. The research addressed two related goals: (1) explicitly linking spatial variability of fisheries biomass and profitability over time to environmental variables; and (2) developing estimates of opportunity costs of time and area closures to the fishing industry at scales relevant to management. The approach involved two stages of statistical analyses. First, environmental conditions measured at 3 km and 9 km spatial scales and two-week and one-month intervals were used to predict fish biomass and fisheries catch per unit of effort (CPUE). Environmental variables included bathymetry, remotely sensed physical and biological observations, and output from a physical oceanographic circulation model. Second, we used predicted CPUE and spatial regulatory and cost factors to explain the spatial distribution of fishing effort over time. Our results suggested that 2001 Critical Habitat closures cost the North Pacific groundfish trawl fisheries 5-40 percent of their total potential net earnings. The improved methods for estimating opportunity costs of fisheries closures we present have direct applications to evaluating boundary changes to marine protected areas and other spatial management decisions. Limitations include the extensive data requirements and the need to bootstrap confidence intervals. If further research demonstrates the robustness and stability of the estimated relationships over time, the methods could project spatial fishery effects of climate variability and change, leading to dynamic spatial models linking fisheries with ecosystems.
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2007
 
Population trends, diet, genetics, and observations of Steller sea lions in Glacier Bay National Park.
Gelatt, T., A.W.Trites, K. Hastings, L. Jemison, K. Pitcher, and G. O’Corry-Crowe. 2007.
In J.F. Piatt and S.M. Gende (eds), Proceedings of the Fourth Glacier Bay Science Symposium, U.S. Geological Survey, Juneau , Alaska. pp. 145-149.
abstract
We are using demographics, scat analysis, and genetic measurements of Steller sea lions (SSLs)to understand the factors affecting population status throughout Alaska. Steller sea lions are listed as threatened throughout Southeast Alaska including Glacier Bay National Park where they frequent at least five terrestrial sites, including a recently established rookery on Graves Rock. Breeding season counts in GBNP increased at ~6 percent/yr between 1989 and 2002. Brand resighting during 2003 revealed 16 western stock SSLs seen within the park. Survival to two months of age was 90 percent. Fifty pups were branded at Graves Rock in 2002. It is necessary to mark more animals to estimate annual survival rates of juveniles and adults. Sandlance and pollock were top prey items at Graves Rock and South Marble Island. Mitochondrial DNA analysis indicates that the Graves Rock rookery was established in part by females from the western sea lion stock (west of 144° W longitude).
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Ecosystem models of the Aleutian Islands and Southeast Alaska show that Steller sea lions are impacted by killer whale predation when sea lion numbers are low.
Guenette S., S.J.J. Heymans, V. Christensen, A.W. Trites. 2007.
In J.F. Piatt and S.M. Gende (eds), Proceedings of the Fourth Glacier Bay Science Symposium, U.S. Geological Survey, Juneau , Alaska. pp. 150-154.
abstract
We constructed ecosystem models using the Ecopath with Ecosim software to evaluate whether predation by killer whales might explain the decline of Steller sea lions since the late 1970s in the western Aleutian Islands. We also sought to understand why sea lions increased in the presence of killer whales in Southeast Alaska. Modeling results reproduced the time series of abundances for exploited species and sea lions in both ecosystems. Simulation results suggest that killer whale predation contributed to the decline of sea lions in the western Aleutians, but that predation was not the primary cause of the population decline. Predation could however have become a significant source of mortality during the 1990s when sea lions numbers were much lower. In Southeast Alaska, predation was also found to be a significant source of mortality in the 1960s when sea lions were low, but ceased to control population growth through the 1980s and 1990s. Overall, the ecosystem models suggest that large populations of Steller sea lions can withstand predation, but that small populations are vulnerable to killer whales.
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Link analysis of a prototype wireless implanted tracking tag.
Lea, A., R. Vaughan, W.G. Dunford, R.J. Petrell and A.W and Trites. 2007.
In 20th Canadian Conference on Electrical and Computer Engineering. pp. 920-923.
abstract
A team of researchers from Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia have designed and built a prototype implanted wireless tag for monitoring Steller sea lions. This paper reviews the system level RF design aspects, and estimates the RF link range.
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Laboratory studies in wildlife conservation: The case of the Steller sea lion.
Rosen, D.A.S., A.L. Fahlman, A.W. Trites and G.D. Hastie. 2007.
Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology A Vol 146 pp. S84
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2005
 
International survey of scientific collections of Steller sea lions.
Miller, E.H., A.W. Trites, and Ø. Wiig. 2005.
Fisheries Centre Research Reports Vol 13(6) pp. 69
abstract
We examined or obtained information on specimens of Steller sea lions in museums and other collections. We report on 1740 specimens (complete or partial skulls) in 44 collections in Canada, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. At least several hundred other specimens also exist, mainly in Japan and Russia. Collection dates range from 1842 to the present. Geographically, specimens are well represented in both ?Western? and ?Eastern? regions (separated at 144 W longitude): 509 and 956, respectively. Collection localities within Alaskan regions 2 (Eastern Gulf of Alaska) to 8 (Eastern Bering Sea) are represented by 290 specimens; another 566 specimens are from Japan and Russia and 462 from Alaska region 1 (Southeastern Alaska) southwards. Thus specimens are well spread across the species? breeding range, including areas of population decline. Representation is also good for the period of population decline and earlier per! iods: 442 specimens are from before 1960, 352 from 1960-69, 370 from 1970-79, and 487 from 1980 onwards. There are some problems with quality of data, and with seasonal and geographic representation, but we conclude that ample specimens exist to permit research pertinent to population declines in parts of the species? range.
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2004
 
Searching for stress: Hematological indicators of nutritional inadequacies in Steller sea lions.
Rosen, D.A.S., Hastie, G.D., Trites, A.W. 2004.
Symposia of the Comparative Nutrition Society 2004 5:145-149.
abstract
This experiment examined the response of a suite of hematologic parameters to experimentally induced nutritional stress in a group of captive Steller sea lions. The goal was to identify a suite of parameters that could be used to diagnose comparable conditions among wild Steller sea lions. Previous studies, many with ruminant mammals, have shown that there are significant changes in blood characteristics with nutritional status. However, it is equally clear that there is no overwhelming choice of blood parameter to indicate nutritional stress across different species. Therefore, species-specific empirical tests such as the one carried out in the current study are essential to place results from wild studies in a biologically meaningful context.
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Searching for stress:Hematological indicators of nutritional inadequacies in Steller sea lions.
Rosen, D.A.S., G.D. Hastie and A.W. Trites. 2004.
Symposia of the Comparative Nutrition Society 2004 5:145-149.
abstract
This experiment examined the response of a suite of hematologic parameters to experimentally induced nutritional stress in a group of captive Steller sea lions. The goal of this study was to identify a suite of parameters that could be used to diagnose comparable conditions among wild Steller sea lions. The experiments were conducted with four captive female Steller sea lions. They were alternated between isocaloric diets of Atka mackerel (4.9-6.7% lipid w.w.) and herring (10.3-13.4% lipid). The level of food intake (~35.6 kJ d-1) was set a priori at a level estimated to produce a 10-15% loss of initial body mass over the 29-day trials. Body mass was measured daily (± 0.1 kg), and body composition was determined at the start and end of each trial by deuterium dilution technique. Nine of the blood parameters measured in this study showed consistent changes over the 29-day period of induced nutritional stress. White blood cell counts, platelet counts, phosphorous levels, alkaline phosphatase levels, and serum Fe levels all showed consistent decreases, whilst red blood cell counts, hemoglobin levels, hematocrit levels, and gamma GT levels, showed consistent increases. Only one of the blood parameters showed a significantly different response in relation to diet - blood urea nitrogen (BUN) levels showed a consistent increase on the Atka mackerel diet and a consistent decrease on the herring diet (P=0.029). Sea lions on the Atka mackerel diet showed a mean percentage increase in BUN level of 9.2%, and a mean percentage decrease of 4.9% on the herring diet. Previous studies, many with ruminant mammals, have shown that there are significant changes in blood characteristics with nutritional status. However, it is equally clear that there is no overwhelming choice of blood parameter to indicate nutritional stress across different species. Therefore, species-specific empirical tests such as the one carried out in the current study are essential to place results from wild studies in a biologically meaningful context.
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Whales, whaling and ecosystem change in the Antarctic and Eastern Bering Sea: insights from ecosystem models.
Trites, A. W.,Bredesen, E.L. and Coombs,A.P. 2004.
In Investigating the roles of cetaceans in marine ecosystems. Monaco: CIESM Workshop Monographs pp. 85-92.
abstract
Ecosystem models were constructed for the Antarctic and the Bering Sea that incorporate current understanding of biological interactions of species within the ecosystem (i.e., who eats whom and how much). Within the limitations that are inherent to simulations, both models suggest that removal of large whales had little measurable effect on lower trophic levels or on the dynamics of other species in their polar ecosystems. Trophic interactions failed to explain the magnitude of changes in the biomass of the major species groups in the Antarctic and Bering Sea. Nor did fin-fisheries appear to have had a significant effect on the abundance of non-targeted species. This may mean that environmental effects (which were not modeled) play an important role in influencing the dynamics of marine ecosystems. Oceanographic factors such as changes in water temperature or ocean currents likely result in variations in ecosystem production and species recruitment patterns which are not captured by our Ecopath models. The Ecopath modeling approach is a powerful means of synthesizing knowledge about ecosystems and the factors that influence ecosystem dynamics. They provide a straightforward means for estimating trophic levels and niche overlaps with other species to assess the potential for resource competition. While the models failed to support the hypotheses that large whales play a significant structural role in the Antarctic and Bering Sea ecosystems, they do support what most already know ?- i.e., that populations of large whales are easily reduced to low numbers, but take a long, long time to recover. They also help in recognizing the need to consider factors other than food web interactions when assessing the status of cetaceans, as well as highlighting the potential tradeoffs that can result when other species are removed from ecosystems.
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2002
 
Foraging behavior and energetics of adult female Steller sea lions.
Andrews, R.D., D.G. Calkins, R.W. Davis, B.L. Norcross, K. Peijnenberg and A.W. Trites. 2002.
In D. DeMaster and S. Atkinson (eds), Steller sea lion decline: Is it food II. University of Alaska Sea Grant, AK-SG-02-02, Fairbanks. pp. 19-22.
abstract
In June 1997,we conducted a test of the hypothesis that the current Steller sea lion decline is due to nutritional stress. Steller sea lions were studied at two of the central Aleutian Islands, Seguam and Yunaska, and at the Forrester Island rookery complex in southeast Alaska. Trip durations and the percent time spent at sea were much shorter for Steller sea lions from Seguam Island compared to those from the Forrester Island rookery. Dives at Seguam Island were shorter and shallower, but more frequent than those at Forrester Island The short trips at Seguam Island generally consisted of a single bout of uninterrupted dive cycles while at Forrester Island the trips were broken into dive bouts of varying length separated by periods spent traveling or resting at the surface. However, on average, the percent of a trip spent submerged was not significantly different. Another measure of foraging effort, the vertical travel distance per unit time at sea, was about 1. 5 times greater for Steller sea lions at Forrester Island. The at-sea field metabolic rates, however, were similar for both groups. Data on the time and distance elapsed from departure on a foraging trip until commencement of “foraging dives ” shows that at both rookeries Steller sea lions appear to begin searching for prey very soon after entering the water. However , the mean time from departure to first prey ingestion, identified by the stomach temperature record, was about five times longer for Steller sea lions at Forrester Island than at Seguam Island. The rough estimation of prey intake rate at Seguam Island was about two times greater than at Forrester Island. Therefore, it would appear that in 1997,adult female Steller sea lions at Seguam Island found suitable prey more quickly, and once they found it were able to ingest it at a much higher rate than Steller sea lions at Forrester Island. From this study it appears that a directly measured difference in prey availability may account for the observed difference in prey capture rate. This greater capture rate by Steller sea lions at Seguam Island may partially explain the greater pup growth rates observed there compared to Forrester Island. The lack of a single highly abundant prey species and the larger Steller sea lions population at Forrester Island may result in longer search times for Forrester Island Steller sea lions. An important value of this and the related studies to date is that we were able to demonstrate a correlation between prey availability, foraging success, and pup growth, a parameter that is potentially indicative of future survival and therefore adult female reproductive success.
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Harbour porpoise interactions with the 2001 selective salmon fisheries in southern British Columbia and license holder reported small cetacean by-catch.
Hall, A., G.E. Ellis and A.W. Trites. 2002.
Selective Salmon Fisheries Science Program Report.
abstract
We estimated the incidental mortality of harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) in selective salmon fisheries in southern British Columbia from reports received from federal fisheries observers (2001) and license holders (1997 - 2001). Data sheets were developed to record prevailing conditions at the time of a harbor porpoise entanglement event. These were incorporated into the existing Federal Fisheries Observer Program. Data collection occurred throughout the 2001 - commercial salmon fishing season in the coastal waters of southern British Columbia. Neither the seine net, nor the troll salmon fisheries reported entanglements in 2001. All observer reported entanglements of small cetaceans were phocoenids and all were caught in gill nets. In total, four porpoises were incidentally caught – each in a different statistical licensing area (licensing areas 12, 21, 25, 121). Two of these four (50%), were released alive. The two by-caught harbour porpoises that could not be released alive, died in the gill nets before either the observer or the vessel's crew were aware of the collision. When mitigative actions were effected, live release resulted. At a minimum, the porpoises sustained superficial lacerations from the rescue efforts and the gill net collision. Morphometric and scan zone data indicated that the by-caught harbour porpoise were likely solitary juveniles. A total of 979 gill and seine net license holders were sent a questionnaire regarding their knowledge and experiences with harbour porpoise. Of these, 27.6% returned their completed questionnaires: 250 were used in the final analysis. Respondents had an average of 33.5 years fishing experience, with two-thirds of them reporting a multi-gear career. Respondents expressed a keen willingness to participate and provided details of their harbour porpoise experiences, as well as information about other small cetacean encounters. Respondents reported a total of 14 incidents, involving 19 harbour porpoise incidentally caught between 1997 and 2001. All were with gill nets and most involved single animals. The license holders reported a 52.6% overall release rate, with a 100% release rate for those found alive. Damage to gear was usually caused by the rescue efforts, rather than by the entangled porpoises. Human intervention was required, as none of the phocoenids were able to disentangle themselves. Porpoises appeared to respond well to human intervention and handling, as indicated by the few reports of mortality occurring during a rescue (ancillary reports prior to the 1997 - 2001 focus period). The license holder's responses indicated that most of the incidental catch events occurred in Salmon Statistical Licensing Areas 4, 8, 12, 21 and 22. Based on the number of by-caught porpoises reported through the observer program, the total theoretical mortality for southern BC (Statistical Areas D and E) is 20 animals per 810 boat days fished, or 80 porpoises for the 2001 fishing effort. Given that harbour porpoise accounted for all observer reported phocoenid mortality, this translates to an estimated mortality of 80 harbour porpoise for the 2001 effort. Poisson distribution 95% confidence levels determined annual phocoenid mortality between 11 and 102 animals for southern BC (Salmon Licensing Areas D and E). It is likely that the proportions of harbour to Dall's porpoise killed annually are variable based on differential overlap of gill net fisheries with phocoenid spatial and temporal distribution. This estimate was based on a very small sample size and assumed that catch rates were the same across all statistical areas. However, this assumption is questionable given that harbour porpoise and fishing effort have heterogeneous distributions. A second estimate derived from the province-wide career experiences of license holders (1997 - 2001) yielded an estimated incidental catch of 14.1 harbour porpoise per year, with an annual mortality of 6.6 animals and Poisson distribution 95% confidence levels of 23 - 61 porpoises killed annually. Our estimates suggest that fewer than 100 harbour porpoise are killed each year by commercial salmon gill net fisheries. However, the biological significance of our estimates of mortality is unknown due to a lack of information about numbers and rates of birth, and natural mortality of BC harbour porpoise. What we do know is that fishery caused mortality of harbour porpoise continues throughout the province, including trans-boundary areas with Washington State, even in times of reduced fishing effort. This has special significance for any populations that are at risk of gear entanglement in both US and Canadian waters, and to any populations, which are small or have restricted ranges. The fact that mortality occurs in a highly regulated fishery raises the possibility that considerably higher mortality may have occurred in times of more permissive fisheries. If so, reduced fishery related mortality today, may mean the recovery of harbor porpoise populations historically diminished by fisheries. This in turn, underlines the need for further monitoring in southern BC and implementation of standardized reporting of harbor porpoise by-catch from central and northern regions. Approximately half of the observer and license holder reported incidentally caught porpoises were released alive. This speaks well to the efforts of gill net fishermen in British Columbia. Further efforts to reduce harbor porpoise by-catch and increase live release rates must be practical to a commercial fishing situation and must consider the effects to the efficiency of the target species fisheries. A number of recommendations stem from our study to reduce incidental catch and increase live release rates. These include further investigation into selective gill net fishery modifications, improving observer training specific to marine mammals, rescue and release protocols and augmenting harbor porpoise biological research. Time or area restrictions and the introduction of acoustic net alarms do not appear to be appropriate management tools at this time, due to the uncertainty associated with the estimates of mortality, the lack of knowledge about harbor porpoise biology and the apparent rarity of occurrence per boat day fished or per respondent license holder.
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What is it about food? Examining possible mechanisms with captive Steller sea lions.
Rosen, D.A.S. and A.W. Trites. 2002.
In D. DeMaster and S. Atkinson (eds), Steller sea lion decline: Is it food II. University of Alaska Sea Grant, AK-SG-02-02, Fairbanks. pp. 45-48.
abstract
Changes in the quality or quantity of food can have a dramatic effect on the population status of wild animals. Unfortunately, it is difficult to assess (or define) whether nutritional stress is a contributing factor to the decline of any particular species.The “nutritional quality ” of a diet to an animal is a complex matter to assess given the range of components that can influence its value.The effects of different diets on animal health are equally complex, and are particularly difficult to assess in large, wild animals. Research by the North Pacific Universities Marine Mammal Research Consortium with captive Steller sea lions is evaluating the possible mechanisms by which dietary changes might adversely affect the nutritional or health status of individual animals, and ultimately the population as a whole. The research investigates the three potential proximate mechanisms by which changes in diet might impact Steller sea lions:a decrease in energy intake, a decrease in the intake of some essential element, and the over-consumption of an element detrimental to sea lion health.
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2001
 
An annotated bibliography of scientific literature (1751-2000) pertaining to Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in Alaska.
Hunter, A.M.J. and A.W. Trites. 2001.
Fisheries Centre Research Reports Vol 9 pp. 45
abstract
We compiled an annotated bibliography of Steller sea lion literature that identifies the areas of research that have been undertaken to date, and whether or not they address the leading hypotheses proposed to explain the population decline in Alaska. We identified 272 scientific papers with a primary research focus on Steller sea lions. Of these, 111 articles were peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals, and 161 were other forms of publication (e.g., technical reports, unpublished reports, dissertations, etc.). The total number of Steller sea lion articles published per decade has risen exponentially from 4 in the 1940s to 128 in the 1990s. The bulk of scientific studies have focused on population distribution, population dynamics, ecology, census data, nutrition and behavior. Subject areas that have received low research attention include predation on Steller sea lions, captive studies, metabolism and parasitology. Only 59 of the 272 scientific articles contained information relevant to testing one of the 12 hypothesized causes of the Steller sea lion decline. The most frequently addressed hypothesis concerned juvenile mortality (25 papers). This was followed by starvation, competition with fisheries, human predation and regime shifts. Only 1 of the 272 articles addressed the role that killer whale predation may be playing in the decline of Steller sea lions. To date, over 9,228 pages pertaining to Steller sea lions have been printed (1,148 pages of primary publications and 8,080 pages of other publications). The relative number of articles that address or provide significant information to assess hypothesized causes of the population decline are few (< 30% of the sea lion literature per decade).
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Modeling and mapping trophic overlap between marine mammals and commercial fisheries in the North Atlantic.
Kaschner, K., R. Watson, V. Christensen, A.W. Trites and D. Pauly. 2001.
In D. Zeller and R.D.Pauly Watson (eds), Fisheries impacts on North Atlantic ecosystems: catch, effort and national/regional datasets. Fisheries Centre Research. 9(3):35-45.
abstract
The impact that fishing operations may have on marine mammals and other components of marine ecosystems is a major concern today. Fisheries, in addition to causing by-catch mortalities, affect marine mammals through direct and indirect competition for the same food sources. Our goal was to assess the potential trophic impact of fisheries on mammal populations in the North Atlantic by quantifying the overlap in resource exploitation in space and time using high-resolution modeling and mapping. We developed a relatively simple model to estimate feeding requirements (specified by food type) and population biomass of all North Atlantic marine mammal species. Main model input parameters were population abundance, sex-specific mean body mass, standardized diet compositions, and weight-specific feeding rates. A spatial model was constructed using a geographic information system to link annual food consumption estimates to the corresponding species-specific, rasterized distributional ranges. Spatially explicit food intake (expressed as proportions of total food intake per ½ degree latitude/longitude square) was further refined by incorporating information about habitat preferences and feeding patterns. Superimposing the geographically matching fisheries catches (generated by a similar rule-based model) allowed the calculation of overlap between fisheries catches and marine mammal consumption. The model indicates that, in the North Atlantic, total food consumption of marine mammals in the 1990s was three times higher than total fisheries catches. However, spatially disaggregating consumption and specifying intake by food type showed actual resource overlap to be quite low. Areas of high overlap in the North Atlantic are concentrated along the East coast of North America (35o – 53° N) and in European shelf waters. This visualization of geographical ‘hotspots’ of marine mammal-fisheries interactions may help to identify areas of conflict, realized or potential. Hence the meta-analysis approach taken here may serve as a useful management tool in the context of defining marine mammal critical habitat and efficient MPAs design.
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COSEWIC status report addendum on killer whale (Orcinus orca).
Trites, A.W. and L.G. Barrett-Lennard. 2001.
COSEWIC Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Canadian Wildlife Service, Ottawa, Ont.
abstract
The status report for killer whales that was accepted by COSEWIC in May 1999 contains a comprehensive summary of what was known about killer whales until the late 1990s. Since then, three significant sets of studies have been published with new information about contaminant concentrations, population genetics, and population sizes of killer whales in British Columbia. This new information has bearing on the listing of killer whales in Canada.
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2000
 
Alternative models for assessing the role of nutrition in the population dynamics of marine mammals.
Donnelly, C., A.W. Trites and D.D. Kitts. 2000.
In C.L.K. Baer (ed.), Proceedings of the Third Comparative Nutrition Society Symposium. Pacific Grove, California, August 4-9, 2000. 3:41-45.
abstract
Alternative animal models are desirable to assess the role of nutrition on the population dynamics of marine mammals. If an appropriate model could be found, it might be possible to identify population consequences and risks that face sea otters forced to eat fish after depleting local invertebrates, or for sea lions which switch from a fatty fish to a lean fish. From the arguments raised above, the rat appears to be a feasible model for studying marine mammal nutrition. A preliminary study exploring the effects of nutrition on population dynamics via parameters of growth and reproductive success is feasible. Although mink and harbor seal models are superior in their similarity to other marine mammals, the difficulty and time involved in breeding them is either extremely labor intensive or prohibitive. Again, the regular, five day cycle of the rat and shorter generation time allow for parameters of fertility and offspring viability in response to different diets to be examined in a cost effective and economic way. Additionally, because of the extensive use of rats in other nutritional studies, many signs and symptoms of specific nutritional shortcomings are known and easily detected. If a reliable model can be implemented in the study of marine mammal population dynamics, research can explore aspects of physiology nor available when using captive marine mammals or mammals in the wild. Development of a model also has the potential to reduce the number of mammals taken from the wild for scientific study, thereby helping to preserve many threatened species.
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Estimates of basal metabolic and feeding rates for marine mammals from measurements of maximum body length.
Hunter, A.M.J., A.W. Trites and D. Pauly. 2000.
In C.L.K. Baer (ed.), Proceedings of the Third Comparative NutritionSociety Symposium. Pacific Grove, California, August 4-9, 2000. 3:103-106.
abstract
Compared to terrestrial mammals, marine mammals are generally perceived as having elevated metabolic rates and insatiable appetites, attributable to maintaining their high body core temperatures in a cold aquatic environment. The perception that marine mammals have higher metabolic rates than terrestrial mammals of similar body size is reinforced by a substantial body of literature that dates over half a century (Sergeant, 1973; Lavigne, 1982) and is further supported by reports of captive marine mammals ingesting large quantities of food (Sergeant, 1969, 1973; Bonner, 1982). However, within the past two decades, this convention has been challenged. Lavigne et al. (1986) failed to reject the hypothesis that physically mature phocids (true seals) have similar basal metabolic rates (BMRs) as terrestrial mammals of similar body weight, when measured under standard conditions. Innes et al. (1987) found similar results when comparing feeding rates (FRs) of seals and whales. However, much research has been conducted on the FRs and BMRs of marine mammals since these studies were completed. In our study, we re-investigated whether basal metabolic and feeding rates of marine mammals are similar to those predicted for terrestrial mammals. We also explored relationships between taxa and were able to predict the basal metabolic rates of species of marine mammals not previously studied. These estimates can also be used to assess the amount of prey consumed by species of marine mammals whose metabolisms have never been determined in the field or in the lab.
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Assessing the role of nutritional stress in the decline of wild populations: a Steller case of scientific sleuthing.
Rosen, D.A.S. and A.W. Trites. 2000.
In C.L.K. Baer (ed.), Proceedings of the Third Comparative Nutrition Society Symposium. Pacific Grove, California, August 4-9, 2000. 3:182-186.
abstract
Dry-matter digestibility and energy digestive efficiency were measured in six juvenile Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) fed three diets each consisting of a single species: herring, pollock, and squid. Two of the animals were also fed pink salmon. Dry-matter digestibility (DMD) and digestive efficiency (DE) were measured using the energy and manganese concentration in fecal and food samples. DE values were high for all prey species (herring: 95.4 ± 0.7% (mean ± SD), pollock: 93.9 ± 1.4%, salmon: 93.4 ± 0.5%, squid: 90.4 ± 1.3%). Steller sea lions appear to digest prey of high energy density more efficiently than prey of low energy density. DMD values were also high for all prey species (herring: 90.1 ± 1.8%, pollock: 86.5 ± 3.4%, salmon: 87.3% ± 2.6, squid: 90.5 ± 1.2%). The low DMD value for pollock compared with herring and squid was due to the high proportion of bony material in pollock. There was a strong linear relationship between DE and DMD for each prey type, but the terms cannot be used interchangeably. DE measures are more meaningful than DMD in conveying the energetic benefits derived by sea lions from different types of prey. Species-specific measures of the digestible energy obtained from an array of prey items are a necessary component in understanding the bioenergetic consequences of consuming different prey species.
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1999
 
Ecosystem change and the decline of marine mammals in the Eastern Bering Sea: testing the ecosystem shift and commercial whaling hypotheses.
Trites, A.W., P.A. Livingston, M.C. Vasconcellos, S. Mackinson, A.M. Springer and D. Pauly. 1999.
Fisheries Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. pp. 106
abstract
Over the past 10 years there has been increasing criticism of management decisions that are based on single species approaches and a call for the implementation of ecosystem approaches. The major criticism of single species models is that they cannot predict changes in community struc ture. Unfortunately, our experience in modeling the Bering Sea shows that these same criticisms can also be leveled against ecosystem models. We employed trophic mass balance models (Ecopath and Ecosim) to examine some possible explanations for the changes that occurred in the Bering Sea between the 1950s and 1980s. We removed fish and mammals from the modeled system and tracked how other components of the eco system responded. Our mass balance models indicate that neither whal ing nor commercial fisheries were sufficient to explain the 400% increase in pollock biomass and other changes that may have occurred between the two time periods. The simulations further suggest that environmental factors, affecting recruitment or primary production, may be more impor tant in determining the dynamics of the Bering Sea ecosystem than preda tor prey interactions alone. These findings illustrate that mass balance models that do not account for the impact of climate variability on year class strength cannot provide reliable estimates of trends in marine fish production. However, our models can show how predation and fishing can affect trophic interactions among species. As such, ecosystem models are a useful scientific tool to identify gaps in understanding and data needs, but are unlikely to ever replace single species models. They may instead complement and provide parameters to single species models. Ecosystem models such as ours are still in the early stages of develop ment and will become increasingly more important as a management tool as they begin to incorporate spatial and oceanographic/climatic information.
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1998
 
A preliminary assessment of the status of marine mammal populations and associated research needs for the west coast of Canada.
Money, J.H. and A.W. Trites. 1998.
In Final Report to Fisheries and Oceans Canada. pp. 80
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Blood Chemistry and Body Mass Changes During Fasting in Juvenile Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
Rea, Lorrie D., David A.S. Rosen and Andrew W. Trites. 1998.
In Proceedings of the Comparative Nutrition Society, Number 2. pp. 174-178.
abstract
Fasting in bears, penguins and phocid seals is accompanied by predictable changes in plasma metabolite concentrations related to alterations in the body reserves that are catabolized and illustrate a species’ ability to limit protein degradation during long-term fasting (see review in Castellini and Rea 1992, Nordoy et al. 1993, Rea 1995). Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) also undergo periods of fasting in their natural environment; adult females fast while nursing pups on the rookery, males defend breeding territories and young pups fast on the rookeries while their mothers are at sea foraging. Five juvenile Steller sea lions were fasted ‘in captivity (with free access to fresh water) for 9 to 14 days to test the hypothesis that juvenile Steller sea lions also exhibit changes in key plasma metabolites indicative of biochemical adaptation to fasting. The secondary objective of this study was to determine if blood metabolite concentrations could be used as biochemical indicators of nutritional status in free-ranging juvenile Steller sea lions.

keywords     blood chemistry, body mass, fasting, juvenile Steller sea lions, #2
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Changes in metabolism in response to varying energy intake in a marine mammal, the Steller sea lion.
Rosen, D.A.S. and A.W. Trites. 1998.
In Proceedings of the Comparative Nutrition Society, Number 2. pp. 182-187.
abstract
When faced with decreases in energy intake, an animal has two conditions, hunger stimulates increased foraging activity, a strategy of short-term expenditure off-set by a reasonable-expectation of foraging success. However, when faced wit increased energy h periods of predictable or prolonged shortages of energy intake (although not necessarily energy availability), the animal should limit energy expenditures. The most common response to experimental undernutrition or fasting in homeotherms is metabolic depression. Invoking such physiologic responses that limitenergy expenditures limits tissue loss and delays death by starvation. Some species of marine mammals have exhibited metabolic depression, although its occurrence, scope, and triggers are still unclear. This study was designed to document the extent of metabolic depression in Steller sea lions. It investigated the role of energy and food intake on metabolic depression, and the relationship between changes in body mass and the scope of metabolic depression.
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1996
 
Status review of the Puntledge River summer chinook.
Trites, A.W., C.W. Beggs and B. Riddell. 1996.
DFO PCARC Document. pp. 34
abstract
The population of summer chinook that spawn in British Columbia's Puntledge River once numbered about 3,000 fish, but declined following expansion of hydroelectric development in the early 1950s. By 1965, only a few hundred fish remained. Following enhancement efforts (construction of a spawning channel, fish way, and fishing closures and restrictions), the population slowly recovered and reached a high of 1,200 in the mid 1980s. Numbers of males increased more rapidly than females, which on average outnumber females by a ratio of two-to-one. A second, and potentially more disastrous decline began in 1990. Only 208 spawners returned in 1995 compared to 1,629 five years earlier. Males return to the river before females and are significantly younger and smaller than females. Differences in body size and numbers may be partly explained by size selectivity of fisheries that release undersized fish. Chinook that use the spawning channel are physically smaller than those that stay in the river to spawn. In 1980, fisheries intercepted 74% of the summer chinook as they returned to the puntiedge River compared to 9% that were taken by harbour seals. In 1990, fisheries and seals caught 32% and 24%, respectively. The problems faced by the summer chinook are varied and complex. It is not clear whether the Puntledge River can ever again sustain the historic numbers that once made it one of the most important producers of chinook salmon in British Columbia. Development of a conservation plan is urgently needed for the Puntledge River summer chinook and should be given high priority given the recent low levels of spawning escapements, and evidence of high mortalities incurred at sea and in the terminal area. -1v
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Killer whales and vessel activity in Robson Bight from 1991 to 1994.
Trites, A.W., W. Hochachka and S.A. Carter. 1996.
A report of BC Parks, Strathcona District, Parksville, BC. pp. 45
abstract
During the summers of 1991 to 1994 (July 1 - August 31), the movements of vessels and killer whales (Orcinus orca) were monitored during daylight hours in the Robson Bight - Michael Bigg Ecological Reserve, in Johnstone Strait, British Columbia. Numbers of whales using the Ecological Reserve increased through the month of July, peaking in early to mid August, and dropping thereafter. Diurnally, increases occurred from morning to midafternoon in numbers of whales and the amount of time spent within the Reserve. Whales spent an average of 12% of their time resting in the Ecological Reserve, 25% rubbing and 63% engaged in other activities. They travelled through all four zones of the Reserve with equal frequency, but spent significantly more time in the rubbing beach zone than in any of the other three zones. Over 75% of the vessels that entered the Ecological Reserve were commercial fishing vessels. Fishing activity rose sharply through the last week of July, peaking in early August. This was followed by a smaller peak in commercial activity during the last week of August. Low numbers of recreational vessels entered the Reserve throughout the summer with a small peak in activity during the last week of July. Vessel activity was highest at the western end of the Reserve and lowest at the eastern end (at the rubbing beaches). Considerable variability was observed in abundance and activity levels of whales and vessels from day to day, and from hour to hour. This meant that although general trends could be described from the large number of observations, it was not possible to accurately predict either boat or whale activity for a given day or time. Vessel activity does not appear to have marked effects on the presence of whales in the Ecological Reserve. However, the movement of whales within the Ecological Reserve does appear to be affected by vessels. Whales were more likely to move to a different zone or to leave the Reserve entirely when vessels were present, and were more likely to leave the rubbing beach zone than any other zone of the Reserve. Continued research on the effects of vessel activity on killer whales in the Ecological Reserve is recommended and should include: continued analysis of existing data; posing well defined questions to guide research design; collecting detailed information on whale behaviours, vessel numbers and vessel activities; and rigorously collecting data on whales and vessels from the waters immediately adjacent to the Ecological Reserve
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Changes in the abundance of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in Alaska from 1956 to 1992: how many were there?
Trites, Andrew W. and Peter A. Larkin. 1996.
Aquatic Mammals 22:153-166.
abstract
The size of Steller sea lion populations in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands was estimated by applying life table statistics to counts of pups and adults (non-pups) at rookery sites. Total population size was 5.10 times the number of pups counted or 3.43 times the number of adults counted. Only 55% of the adult population return to rookeries during the summer. Data compiled from published and unpublished sources for all 39 major rookeries in Alaska suggest that the total number of Steller sea lions (including pups) rose from 250 000 to 282 000 between the mid 1950s and the mid 1970s. Since 1980 it has decreased by over 70% (roughly 5% per year) to about 76 000 animals in 1992. Most of the decline appears to have slowed or stopped within two subareas of these large regions- the eastern Aleutians and western Gulf of Alaska. Increases have been occurring in the smaller populations of southeast Alaska. It is not known why these changes have occurred.

keywords     abundance, Steller sea lions, Alaska, decline, #2
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1994
 
Killer whales and vessel activity in Robson Bight from 1991 to 1993.
Trites, A.W. and W. Hochachka. 1994.
A report of BC Parks, Strathcona District, Parksville, BC V9P 2H4. pp. 46

1992
 
The status of Steller sea lion populations and the development of fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands.
Trites, A.W. and P.A. Larkin. 1992.
In A report of the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission pursuant to National Oceanic and Atmospheric award no. NA17FD0177. University of British Columbia, Fisheries Centre, 2204 Main Mall, Vancouver, B.C. V6T 1Z4. pp. 134
abstract
The goal of our study was to assess the status of Steller sea lions in Alaska, review their population biology, and develop a simulation model to explore the role that harvesting and incidental kills by fisheries may have played in the sea lion decline. We also attempted to relate the population declines to the amount of fish caught in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands, and to the number of vessels fishing from 1950 to 1990. Using life tables to estimate population size, the numbers of Steller sea lions were estimated for all rookeries for which information was available in each of six areas in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands. The total population appears to have risen from 150,000 to 210,000 from the mid 1950s to 1967. The population was then stable for roughly ten years, then increased to 225,000 by 1979. Since then it has decreased to about 85,000. Most of the decline took place in Area 3 (Kodiak region) but there were also significant declines in Areas 4 to 6 (westward of Kodiak). Increases have occurred in the smaller populations of Areas 1 and 2 (southeast Alaska and Prince William Sound). A major growth in domestic fisheries occurred after the declaration of 200 mile zones. The traditional fisheries for salmon, herring and halibut were augmented by major groundfish fisheries. The decline in the numbers of Steller sea lions has been coincidental with the growth in the numbers and size of vessels and the increase in catch. The stabilization in the numbers of Steller sea lions in the Gulf of Alaska from 1956 to 1980 can be attributed to the direct effect of incidental capture in fishing gear, the shooting of sea lions and the harvesting of adults and pups. However, these factors explain but a small portion of the recent population decline, from 1980 to the present. Some sea lions are missing in the arithmetic of population dynamics which cannot be accounted for by movements of animals from one area to another. Whether these losses are caused by the removal of food resources is a circumstantial possibility, but evidence of local abundance of food resources at particular times of the year for particular segments of the population is needed to build a convincing case. Other causes, such as diseases and parasites must also be kept in mind as possible contributing factors. Research on Steller sea lions should focus on the decline in abundance since 1980, changes in body size, the diet at various seasons of the year, bioenergetics and nutritional requirements, and assessment of local abundance of various food items. Long term research on the ecosystem dynamics of the region will be necessary for long term management of all living resources but how best to focus that research is a matter of current scientific debate that will not be resolved quickly.
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Refereed Publications


(in press)
 
Wild Chinook salmon productivity is negatively related to seal density, and not related to hatchery releases in the Pacific Northwest.
Nelson, B.W., C.J. Walters, A.W. Trites, and M.K. McAllister. (in press).
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
abstract
Predation risk and competition among conspecifics significantly affect survival of juvenile salmon, but are rarely incorporated into models that predict recruitment in salmon populations. Using densities of harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) and numbers of hatchery-released smolts as covariates in spatially-structured Bayesian hierarchical stock-recruitment models, we found significant negative correlations between seal densities and productivity of Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) for 14 of 20 wild Chinook populations in the Pacific Northwest. Changes in numbers of seals since the 1970s were associated with a 74% decrease (95% CI: -85%, -64%) in maximum sustainable yield in Chinook stocks. In contrast, hatchery releases were significantly correlated with Chinook productivity in only one of 20 populations. Our findings are consistent with recent research on predator diets and bioenergetics modeling that suggest there is a relationship between harbour seal predation on juvenile Chinook and reduced marine survival in parts of the eastern Pacific. Forecasting, assessment, and recovery efforts for salmon populations of high conservation concern should thus consider including biotic factors, particularly predator-prey interactions.

keywords     salmon, seal density, hatchery
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Continued decline of a collapsed population of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) due to predation-driven Allee effects.
Neuenhoff, R.D., D.P. Swain, M.K.M. Sean P Cox, A.W. Trites, C.J. Walters, and M.O. Hammill. (in press).
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
abstract
Most stocks of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) in the northwest Atlantic collapsed in the early 1990s, with little sign of recovery since then. In the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence (sGSL), the failed recovery is due to severe increases in the natural mortality of adult Atlantic cod. We examined the role of predation by grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) in this failed recovery by directly incorporating grey seal predation in the population model for Atlantic cod via a functional response. Estimated predation mortality of adult Atlantic cod increased sharply during the cod collapse and has continued to increase, comprising the majority of mortality since the early 2000's. While predation by grey seals appeared to play a minor role in the collapse of Atlantic cod, we found it to be the main factor preventing recovery. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that failed recovery is due to predation-driven Allee effects, a demographic effect due to the decline in cod abundance and an emergent effect resulting from increasing grey seal abundance. Under current conditions, extirpation of sGSL Atlantic cod appears likely unless there is a large decline in the abundance of grey seals.
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2018
 
Correction: Evidence of molting and the function of 'rock-nosing' behavior in bowhead whales in the eastern Canadian Arctic.
Fortune, S.M.E., W.R. Koski, J.W. Higdon, A.W. Trites, M.F. Baumgartner, and S.H. Ferguson. 2018.
PLoS ONE 13:e0192813.
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Reference ranges and age-related and diving exercise effects on hematology and serum chemistry of female Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
Gerlinsky, C. D., M. Haulena, A. W. Trites and D. A. S. Rosen. 2018.
Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 49(1):18-29.
abstract
Decreased health may have lowered the birth and survival rates of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands over the past 30 yr. Reference ranges for clinical hematology and serum chemistry parameters needed to assess the health of wild sea lion populations are limited. Here, blood parameters were serially measured in 12 captive female Steller sea lions ranging in age from 3 wk to 16 yr to establish baseline values and investigate age-related changes. Whether diving activity affects hematology parameters in animals swimming in the ocean compared with animals in a traditional aquarium setting was also examined. Almost all blood parameters measured exhibited significant changes with age. Many of the age-related changes reflected developmental life history changes, including a change in diet during weaning, an improvement of diving capacity, and the maturity of the immune system. Mean corpuscular hemoglobin and mean corpuscular volume were also higher in the ocean diving group compared with the aquarium group, likely reflecting responses to increased exercise regimes. These data provide ranges of hematology and serum chemistry values needed to evaluate and compare the health and nutritional status of captive and wild Steller sea lions.

keywords     Diving, Eumetopias jubatus, hematology, marine mammal, serum chemistry, Steller sea lion
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Trade-off between foraging efficiency and pup feeding rate of lactating northern fur seals in a declining population.
Jeanniard-du-Dot, T., A.W. Trites, J.P.Y. Arnould, J.R. Speakman, and C. Guinet. 2018.
Marine Ecology Progress Series 600:207-222.
abstract
Foraging strategies and their resulting efficiency (energy gain to cost ratio) affect animals' survival and reproductive success and can be linked to population dynamics. However, they have rarely been studied quantitatively in free-ranging animals. We investigated foraging strategies and efficiencies of wild northern fur seals Callorhinus ursinus during their breeding season to understand potential links to the observed population decline in the Bering Sea. We equipped 20 lactating females with biologgers to determine at-sea foraging behaviors. We measured energy expenditure while foraging using the doubly labeled water method, and energy gained using (1) the types and energy densities of prey consumed, and (2) the number of prey capture attempts (from acceleration data). Our results show that seals employed 2 foraging strategies. One group (40%) fed mostly in oceanic waters on small high energy-density prey, while the other (60%) stayed over the shallow continental shelf feeding mostly on larger, lower quality fish. Females foraging in oceanic waters captured 3 times more prey, and had double the foraging efficiencies of females that foraged on-shelf in neritic waters. However, neritic seals made comparatively shorter trips, and likely fed their pups ~20-25% more frequently. The presence of these strategies which either favor foraging efficiency (energy) or frequency of nursing (time) might be maintained in the population because they have similar net fitness outcomes. However, neither strategy appears to simultaneously maximise time and energy allocated to nursing, with potential impacts on the survival of pups during their first year at sea.
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Ecology, archaeology and historical accounts demonstrate the whaling practices of the Quileute tribe in Washington State.
Robertson, F.C. and A.W. Trites. 2018.
Society of American Archaeology Archaeological Record 18(4):23-30.
abstract
The field notes of Frachtenberg (1916) and others note that the Quileute had been practicing whaling since immemorial times. Additional historical and archaeological data confirm that the Quileute successfully hunted and consumed many of the same species taken by the Makah and Nuu-chah-nulth whale hunters during and before treaty times. The archaeological, historical, and ecological data are thus consistent with the Quileute hunters being exceptional seamen, navigators, and whalers.

keywords     whales, whaling, indigenous people, prehistoric, middens, gray whale, humpback whale, fin whale, blue whale, sperm whale, right whale
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Telemetry tags increase the costs of swimming in northern fur seals, Callorhinus ursinus.
Rosen, D. A. S., C. D. Gerlinsky and A. W. Trites. 2018.
Marine Mammal Science 34 (2):385-402. doi:10.1111/mms.12460
abstract
Animal-borne instruments have become a standard tool for collecting important data from marine mammals. However, few studies have examined whether placement of these data loggers affects the behavior and energetics of individual animals, potentially leading to biasing data. We measured the effect of two types of relatively small data loggers (<1% of animals

keywords     northern fur seals, Callorhinus ursinus, telemetry, bioenergetics, biologging, diving, swimming, marine mammal
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Prey consumption by cetaceans reveals the importance of energy-rich food webs in the Bay of Biscay.
Spitz, J., V. Ridoux, A. W. Trites, S. Laran and M. Authiera. 2018.
Progress in Oceanography 166(2018):148-158.
abstract
Ecosystem-based management requires a clear understanding of marine ecosystem functioning, particularly the transfer of energy (consumption) to higher trophic levels. However, robust estimates of consumption are generally hampered by a dearth of data for predators (diet and abundance), and by methodological weaknesses. We undertook a comprehensive assessment of energy requirements and prey consumption for the 10 most abundant cetacean species in the Bay of Biscay (northeastern Atlantic Ocean, France) by combining recent data on their abundances from aerial surveys, and diets from stomach content analyses. We also incorporated functional considerations to group prey and address interspecific differences in the cost of living of cetaceans that are independent of body size. Species considered included harbour porpoise, common dolphins, striped dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, long-finned pilot whales, Risso's dolphins, sperm whales, Cuvier's beaked whales, minke whales and fin w hales. We used Monte Carlo resampling methods to estimate annual and seasonal (winter and summer) consumption over the continental shelf and slope

keywords     food webs, consumption, cetaceans, continental shelf, toothed whales, baleen whales
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2017
 
Lesser devil rays Mobula cf. hypostoma from Venezuela are almost twice their previously reported maximum size and may be a new sub-species.
Ehemann, N. R., L. V. Gonzalez-Gonzalez and A. W. Trites. 2017.
Journal of Fish Biology 90:1142-1148.
abstract
Three rays opportunistically obtained near Margarita Island, Venezuela, were identified as lesser devil rays Mobula cf. hypostoma, but their disc widths were between 207 and 230 cm, which is almost double the reported maximum disc width of 120 cm for this species. These morphometric data suggest that lesser devil rays are either larger than previously recognized or that these specimens belong to an unknown sub-species of Mobula in the Caribbean Sea. Better data are needed to describe the distribution, phenotypic variation and population structure of this poorly known species.
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Evidence of molting and the function of rock-nosing behavior in bowhead whales in the eastern Canadian Arctic.
Fortune, S. M. E., W. R. Koski, J. W. Higdon, A. W. Trites, M. F. Baumgartner and S. H. Ferguson. 2017.
PLoS ONE, pages: e0186156 Vol 12(1)
abstract
Bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) have a nearly circumpolar distribution, and occasionally occupy warmer shallow coastal areas during summertime that may facilitate molting. However, relatively little is known about the occurrence of molting and associated behaviors in bowhead whales. We opportunistically observed whales in Cumberland Sound, Nunavut, Canada with skin irregularities consistent with molting during August 2014, and collected a skin sample from a biopsied whale that revealed loose epidermis and sloughing. During August 2016, we flew a small unmanned aerial system (sUAS) over whales to take video and still images to: 1) determine unique individuals; 2) estimate the proportion of the body of unique individuals that exhibited sloughing skin; 3) determine the presence or absence of superficial lines representative of rock-rubbing behavior; and 4) measure body lengths to infer age-class. The still images revealed that all individuals (n = 81 whales) were sloughing skin, and that nearly 40% of them had mottled skin over more than two-thirds of their bodies. The video images captured bowhead whales rubbing on large rocks in shallow, coastal areas --likely to facilitate molting. Molting and rock rubbing appears to be pervasive during late summer for whales in the eastern Canadian Arctic.
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Accelerometers can measure total and activity-specific energy expenditure in free-ranging marine mammals only if linked to time-activity budgets.
Jeanniard du Dot, T., C. Guinet, J. P. Y. Arnould, J. R. Speakman and A. W. Trites. 2017.
Functional Ecology 31:377-386.
abstract
1-Energy expenditure is an important component of foraging ecology, but is extremely difficult to estimate in free-ranging animals and depends on how animals partition their time between different activities during foraging. Acceleration data has emerged as a new way to determine energy expenditure at a fine scale but needs to be tested and validated in wild animals. 2-This study investigated whether vectorial dynamic body acceleration (VeDBA) could accurately predict the energy expended by marine predators during a full foraging trip. We also aimed to determine whether the accuracy of predictions of energy expenditure derived from acceleration increased when partitioned by different types of at-sea activities (i.e., diving, transiting, resting and surface activities) vs calculated activity-specific metabolic rates. 3-To do so, we equipped 20 lactating northern (Callorhinus ursinus) and 20 Antarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus gazella) with GPS, time-depth recorders and tri-axial accelerometers, and obtained estimates of field metabolic rates using the doubly-labelled water (DLW) method. VeDBA was derived from tri-axial acceleration, and at-sea activities (diving, transiting, resting and surface activities) were determined using dive depth, tri-axial acceleration and traveling speed. 4-We found that VeDBA did not accurately predict the total energy expended by fur seals during their full foraging trips (R2 = 0.36). However, the accuracy of VeDBA as a predictor of total energy expenditure increased significantly when foraging trips were partitioned by activity and used activity-specific VeDBA paired with time activity budgets (R2 = 0.70). Activity-specific VeDBA also accurately predicted the energy expenditures of each activity independent of each other (R2 > 0.85). 5-Our study confirms that acceleration is a promising way to estimate energy expenditures of free-ranging marine mammals at a fine scale never attained before. However, it shows that it needs to be based on the time-activity budget that make up foraging trips rather than being derived as a single measure of VeDBA applied to entire foraging trips. Our activity-based method provides a cost-effective means to accurately calculate energy expenditures of fur seals using acceleration and time-activity budgets, a stepping stone for numerous other research fields.

keywords     Antarctic fur seal, Arctocephalus gazella, Callorhinus ursinus, diving, energy expenditure, foraging, metabolic rate, northern fur seal, time-activity budget
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Reproductive success is energetically linked to foraging efficiency in Antarctic fur seals.
Jeanniard-du-Dot, T., A.W. Trites, J.P. Arnould, and C. Guinet. 2017.
PLoS ONE. 12:e0174001
abstract
The efficiency with which individuals extract energy from their environment defines their survival and reproductive success, and thus their selective contribution to the population. Individuals that forage more efficiently (i.e., when energy gained exceeds energy expended) are likely to be more successful at raising viable offspring than individuals that forage less efficiently. Our goal was to test this prediction in large long-lived mammals under free-ranging conditions. To do so, we equipped 20 lactating Antarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus gazella) breeding on Kerguelen Island in the Southern Ocean with tags that recorded GPS locations, depth and tri-axial acceleration to determine at-sea behaviours and detailed time-activity budgets during their foraging trips. We also simultaneously measured energy spent at sea using the doubly-labeled water (DLW) method, and estimated the energy acquired while foraging from 1) type and energy content of prey species present in scat remains, and 2) numbers of prey capture attempts determined from head acceleration. Finally, we followed the growth of 36 pups from birth until weaning (of which 20 were the offspring of our 20 tracked mothers), and used the relative differences in body mass of pups at weaning as an index of first year survival and thus the reproductive success of their mothers. Our results show that females with greater foraging efficiencies produced relatively bigger pups at weaning. These mothers achieved greater foraging efficiency by extracting more energy per minute of diving rather than by reducing energy expenditure. This strategy also resulted in the females spending less time diving and less time overall at sea, which allowed them to deliver higher quality milk to their pups, or allowed their pups to suckle more frequently, or both. The linkage we demonstrate between reproductive success and the quality of individuals as foragers provides an individual-based quantitative framework to investigate how changes in the availability and accessibility of prey can affect fitness of animals.

keywords     foraging, energetics, pups, growth, biologging, doubly-labeled water, Antarctic fur seal, Arctocephalus gazella
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Activity-specific metabolic rates for diving, transiting and resting at sea can be estimated from time-activity budgets in free-ranging marine mammals.
Jeanniard-du-Dot, T., A.W. Trites, J.P.Y. Arnould, and C. Guinet. 2017.
Ecology and Evolution 2017:1-8.
abstract
Time and energy are the two most important currencies in animal bioenergetics. How much time animals spend engaged in different activities with specific energetic costs ultimately defines their likelihood of surviving and successfully reproducing. However, it is extremely difficult to determine the energetic costs of independent activities for free-ranging animals. In this study, we developed a new method to calculate activity-specific metabolic rates, and applied it to female fur seals. We attached biologgers (that recorded GPS locations, depth profiles, and triaxial acceleration) to 12 northern (Callorhinus ursinus) and 13 Antarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus gazella), and used a hierarchical decision tree algorithm to determine time allocation between diving, transiting, resting, and performing slow movements at the surface (grooming, etc.). We concomitantly measured the total energy expenditure using the doubly-labelled water method. We used a general least-square model to establish the relationship between time-activity budgets and the total energy spent by each individual during their foraging trip to predict activity-specific metabolic rates. Results show that both species allocated similar time to diving (~29%), transiting to and from their foraging grounds (~26-30%), and resting (~8-11%). However, Antarctic fur seals spent significantly more time grooming and moving slowly at the surface than northern fur seals (36% vs. 29%). Diving was the most expensive activity (~30 MJ/day if done non-stop for 24 hr), followed by transiting at the surface (~21 MJ/day). Interestingly, metabolic rates were similar between species while on land or while slowly moving at the surface (~13 MJ/day). Overall, the average field metabolic rate was ~20 MJ/day (for all activities combined). The method we developed to calculate activity-specific metabolic rates can be applied to terrestrial and marine species to determine the energetic costs of daily activities, as well as to predict the energetic consequences for animals forced to change their time allocations in response to environmental shifts.

keywords     Antarctic fur seal, Arctocephalus gazella, Callorhinus ursinus, diving, energy expenditure, foraging, metabolic rate, northern fur seal, time-activity budget
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Combining hard-part and DNA analyses in scats with biologging and stable isotopes can reveal different diet compositions and feeding strategies within a population.
Jeanniard-du-Dot, T., A. C. Thomas, Y. Cherel, A. W. Trites and C. Guinet. 2017.
Marine Ecology Progress Series 584:1-16.
abstract
Accurately estimating predators' diets at relevant spatial and temporal scales is key to understanding animals' energetics and fitness, particularly in populations whose decline might be related to their diet such as northern fur seals Callorhinus ursinus. Our goals were to improve the accuracy of diet estimates and extend understanding of feeding ecology by combining 2 scat-based methods of diet determination (hard-part identification and DNA-metabarcoding) with stable isotope measurements and individual behavioural data. We collected 98 scats on a northern fur seal breeding colony. We also tracked 20 females with biologgers, and took blood samples to determine δ13C and δ15N values as proxies for seal foraging habitat and diet. Results show that diet composition from hard-parts analysis corresponded well with DNA results, with DNA yielding a greater diversity of prey species at a finer taxonomic level. Overall, scat-based methods showed that seals mostly fed on neritic shelf-associated prey. Cluster analyses of combined hard-parts and DNA results however identified 2 diet groups, one mostly neritic and the other mostly pelagic. Stable isotopes and behavioural data revealed that 40% of seals fed in oceanic waters on pelagic prey. This is more than indicated by scat-based analyses, which are likely biased towards animals foraging closest to the colony and underestimate some dietary specializations within the population. Consequently, the combination of multiple methods for diet identification with at-sea tracking of individuals can help identify and quantify specialist groups within a population and provide a wider spatial and temporal ecological context for dietary analysis.
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Physiological constraints and energetic costs of diving behaviour in marine mammals: a review of studies using trained Steller sea lions diving in the open ocean.
Rosen, D.A.S., A.G. Hindle, C. Gerlinsky, E. Goundie, G.D. Hastie and A.W. Trites. 2017.
Journal of Comparative Physiology B 187:29-50.
abstract
Marine mammals are characterized as having physiological specializations that maximize the use of oxygen stores to prolong time spent under water. However, it has been difficult to undertake the requisite controlled studies to determine the physiological limitations and trade-offs that marine mammals face while diving in the wild under varying environmental and nutritional conditions. For the past decade, Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) trained to swim and dive in the open ocean away from the physical confines of pools participated in studies that investigated the interactions between diving behaviour, energetic costs, physiological constraints, and prey availability. Many of these studies measured the cost of diving to understand how it varies with behaviour and environmental and physiological conditions. Collectively, these studies show that the type of diving (dive bouts or single dives), the level of underwater activity, the depth and duration of dives, and the n utritional status and physical condition of the animal affect the cost of diving and foraging. They show that dive depth, dive and surface duration, and the type of dive result in physiological adjustments (heart rate, gas exchange) that may be independent of energy expenditure. They also demonstrate that changes in prey abundance and nutritional status cause sea lions to alter the balance between time spent at the surface acquiring oxygen (and offloading CO2 and other metabolic by-products) and time spent at depth acquiring prey. These new insights into the physiological basis of diving behaviour further our understanding of the potential scope for behavioural responses of marine mammals to environmental changes, the energetic significance of these adjustments, and the consequences of approaching physiological limits.
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Harbour Seals Target Juvenile Salmon of Conservation Concern.
Thomas, A. C., B. W. Nelson, M. M. Lance, B. E. Deagle and A. W. & Trites. 2017.
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 74:907-921.
abstract
Knowing the species and life stages of prey that predators consume is important for understanding the impacts that predation may have on prey populations, but traditional methods for determining diets often cannot provide sufficient detail. We combined data from two methods of scat analysis (DNA metabarcoding and morphological prey ID) to quantify the species and life stages of salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) consumed by harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) in the Strait of Georgia, Canada, where juvenile Chinook (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) and coho (Oncorhynchus kisutch) salmon survival is poor. Harbour seals primarily consumed adult salmon of lesser conservation concern in the fall (August-November): chum (Oncorhynchus keta: 18.4%), pink (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha: 12.6%), sockeye (Oncorhynchus nerka: 7.4%), Chinook (7.1%), and coho (1.8%). However, the opposite species trend occurred during the spring when seals preferred juvenile salmon of greater conservation concern (April july): coho (2.9%), Chinook (2.9%), sockeye (2.5%), pink (1.4%), and chum (0.8%)percentages that can equate to many individuals consumed. Our data suggest that harbour seals select juveniles of salmon species that out-migrate at ages >1 year and provide evidence of a potential causal relationship between harbour seal predation and juvenile salmon survival trends.

keywords     seals, predation, salmon, coho, Chinook, diet
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Marine mammals exploring the oceans pole to pole: a review of the MEOP consortium.
Treasure, A. M., F. Roquet, I. J. Ansorge, M. N. Bester, L. Boehme, H. Bornemann, J.-B. Charrassin, D. Chevallier, D. P. Costa, M. A. Fedak, C. Guinet, M. O. Hammill, R. G. Harcourt, M. A. Hindell, K. M. Kovacs, M.-A. Lea, P. Lovell, A. D. Lowther, C. Lydersen, T. McIntyre, C. R. McMahon, M. M. C. Muelbert, K. Nicholls, B. Picard, G. Reverdin, A. W. Trites, G. D. Williams and P.J. Nico de Bruyn. 2017.
Oceanography 30:132-138.
abstract
Polar oceans are poorly monitored despite the important role they play in regulating Earth's climate system. Marine mammals equipped with biologging devices are now being used to fill the data gaps in these logistically difficult to sample regions. Since 2002, instrumented animals have been generating exceptionally large data sets of oceanographic CTD casts (>500,000 profiles), which are now freely available to the scientific community through the MEOP data portal (http://meop.net). MEOP (Marine Mammals Exploring the Oceans Pole to Pole) is a consortium of international researchers dedicated to sharing animal-derived data and knowledge about the polar oceans. Collectively, MEOP demonstrates the power and cost-effectiveness of using marine mammals as data-collection platforms that can dramatically improve the ocean observing system for biological and physical oceanographers. Here, we review the MEOP program and database to bring it to the attention of the international community.
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Fine-scale foraging movements by fish-eating killer whales (Orcinus orca) relate to the vertical distributions and escape responses of salmonid prey (Oncorhynchus spp.).
Wright, B. M., J. K. B. Ford, G. M. Ellis, V. B. Deecke, A. D. Shapiro, B. C. Battaile and A. W. Trites. 2017.
Movement Ecology 5:1-18.
abstract
Background: We sought to quantitatively describe the fine-scale foraging behavior of northern resident killer whales (Orcinus orcas), a population of fish-eating killer whales that feeds almost exclusively on Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.). To reconstruct the underwater movements of these specialist predators, we deployed 34 biologging Dtags on 32 individuals and collected high-resolution, three-dimensional accelerometry and acoustic data. We used the resulting dive paths to compare killer whale foraging behavior to the distributions of different salmonid prey species. Understanding the foraging movements of these threatened predators is important from a conservation standpoint, since prey availability has been identified as a limiting factor in their population dynamics and recovery. Results: Three-dimensional dive tracks indicated that foraging (N = 701) and non-foraging dives (N = 10,618) were kinematically distinct (Wilks

keywords     Foraging, Movement, Diving behavior, Biologging, Dtag, Accelerometry, Killer whale, Orcinus orca, Pacific salmon
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2016
 
Net energy gained by northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) is impacted more by diet quality than by diet diversity.
Diaz Gomez, M, D.A.S. Rosen and A.W. Trites. 2016.
Canadian Journal of Zoology 94:123-135.
abstract
Understanding whether northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus (L., 1758)) are negatively affected by changes in prey quality or diversity could provide insights into their on-going population decline in the central Bering Sea. We investigated how six captive female fur seals assimilated energy from eight different diets consisting of four prey species (walleye pollock (Gadus chalcogrammus Pallas, 1814, formerly Theragra chalcogrammus (Pallas, 1814)), Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii Valenciennes in Cuvier and Valenciennes, 1847), capelin (Mallotus villosus (Muller, 1776)), and magister armhook squid (Berryteuthis magister (Berry, 1913))) fed alone or in combination. Net energy was quantified by measuring fecal energy loss, urinary energy loss, and heat increment of feeding. Digestible energy (95.9%-96.7%) was high (reflecting low fecal energy loss) and was negatively affected by ingested mass and dietary protein content. Urinary energy loss (9.3%-26.7%) increased significantly for high-protein diets. Heat increment of feeding (4.3%-12.4%) was significantly lower for high-lipid diets. Overall, net energy gain (57.9%-83.0%) was affected by lipid content and varied significantly across diets. Mixed-species diets did not provide any energetic benefit over single-species diets. Our study demonstrates that diet quality was more important in terms of energy gain than diet diversity. These findings suggest that fur seals consuming low-quality prey in the Bering Sea would be more challenged to obtain sufficient energy to satisfy energetic and metabolic demands, independent of high prey abundance.

keywords     northern fur seal, Callorhinus ursinus, net energy, mixed-species diets, diet quality
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Dive, food, and exercise effects on blood microparticles in Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus): exploring a biomarker for decompression sickness.
Fahlman, A., M.J. Moore, A.W. Trites, D.A. Rosen, M. Haulena, N. Waller, T. Neale, M. Yang and S.R. Thom. 2016.
American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology 310:R596-R601.
abstract
Recent studies of stranded marine mammals indicate that exposure to underwater military sonar may induce pathophysiological responses consistent with decompression sickness (DCS). However, DCS has been difficult to diagnose in marine mammals. We investigated whether blood microparticles (MPs, measured as number/l plasma), which increase in response to decompression stress in terrestrial mammals, are a suitable biomarker for DCS in marine mammals. We obtained blood samples from trained Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus, 4 adult females) wearing time-depth recorders that dove to predetermined depths (either 5 or 50 meters). We hypothesized that MPs would be positively related to decompression stress (depth and duration underwater). We also tested the effect of feeding and exercise in isolation on MPs using the same blood sampling protocol. We found that feeding and exercise had no effect on blood MP levels, but that diving caused MPs to increase. However, blood MP levels did not correlate with diving depth, relative time underwater, and presumed decompression stress, possibly indicating acclimation following repeated exposure to depth.
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Flipper strokes can predict energy expenditure and locomotion costs in free-ranging northern and Antarctic fur seals.
Jeanniard du Dot, T., A.W. Trites J.P.Y. Arnould, and C. Guinet. 2016.
Scientific Reports. 6:33912
abstract
Flipper strokes have been proposed as proxies to estimate the energy expended by marine vertebrates while foraging at sea, but this has not been validated on free-ranging otariids (fur seals and sea lions). Our goal was to investigate how well flipper strokes correlate with energy expenditure in 33 foraging northern and Antarctic fur seals equipped with accelerometers, GPS, and time-depth recorders. We concomitantly measured field metabolic rates with the doubly-labeled water method and derived activity-specific energy expenditures using fine-scale time-activity budgets for each seal. Flipper strokes were detected while diving or surface transiting using dynamic acceleration. Despite some inter-species differences in flipper stroke dynamics or frequencies, both species of fur seals spent 3.79 ± 0.39 J/kg per stroke and had a cost of transport of ~1.6-1.9 J/kg/m while diving. Also, flipper stroke counts were good predictors of energy spent while diving (R2 = 0.76) and to a lesser extent while transiting (R2 = 0.63). However, flipper stroke count was a poor predictor overall of total energy spent during a full foraging trip (R2 = 0.50). Amplitude of flipper strokes (i.e., acceleration amplitude x number of strokes) predicted total energy expenditure (R2 = 0.63) better than flipper stroke counts, but was not as accurate as other acceleration-based proxies, i.e. Overall Dynamic Body Acceleration.

keywords     accelerometer, energy expenditure, field metabolic rate, doubly-labelled-water, flipper strokes, cost of transport, ODBA, VeDBA, northern fur seal, Antarctic fur seal
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Bayesian data fusion approaches to predicting spatial tracks: application to marine mammals.
Liu, Y., J. V. Zidek, A. W. Trites and B. C. Battaile. 2016.
Annals of Applied Statistics 10:1517-1546.
abstract
Bayesian Melding (BM) and downscaling are two Bayesian approaches commonly used to combine data from different sources for statistical inference. We extend these two approaches to combine accurate but sparse direct observations with another set of high-resolution but biased calculated observations. We use our methods to estimate the path of a moving or evolving object and apply them in a case study of tracking northern fur seals. To make the BM approach computationally feasible for high dimensional (big) data, we exploit the properties of the processes along with approximations to the likelihood to break the high dimensional problem into a series of lower dimensional problems. To implement the alternative, downscaling approach, we use R-INLA to connect the two sources of observations via a linear mixed effect model. We compare the predictions of the two approaches by cross-validation as well as simulations. Our results show that both approaches yield similar results— both provide accurate, high resolution estimates of the atea locations of the northern fur seals, as well as Bayesian credible intervals to characterize the uncertainty about the estimated movement paths.

keywords     Bayesian Melding, Downscaling, Bio-logging, Conditional independence, INLA, Dead-Reckoning, Tracking, Marine mammals
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Behavioral responses affect distribution analyses of bowhead whales in the vicinity of seismic operations.
Robertson, F.C., W.R. Koski and A.W. Trites. 2016.
Mar Ecol Prog Ser 549:243-262.
abstract
Aerial surveys are sometimes used to assess the densities of wide-ranging whales, as well as changes in their distributions in response to human activity. Such surveys also provide data used to estimate numbers of animals exposed to different received levels of seismic sound, as required by regulators. However, estimates of abundance are often biased because they fail to account for the effects of seismic operations on the surfacing and diving behavior of whales. Our objective was to determine the extent to which analyses of the distribution of bowhead whales Balaena mysticetus are affected by changes in visual 'availability' caused by seismic operations. We used aerial survey data collected during seismic operations in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea from late August to early October 2008 and fit spatial density surface models to bowhead sighting data to predict whale density in an ensonified area. We also incorporated availability correction factors to determine the sensitivity of density estimates to changes in surfacing and diving behavior caused by seismic operations. The influence of altered whale behavior was then evaluated by comparing a series of realistic simulated scenarios in which models incorporated undisturbed or seismic disturbance-related correction factors. Results suggest that the numbers of bowhead whales present in the vicinity of seismic operations during the bowhead autumn migration are underestimated if the behavioral effects of seismic operations on whales are ignored. Our study highlights the importance of accounting for changes in whale behavior that can affect sightability when estimating numbers and distribution of whales in the vicinity of industrial activity.

keywords     Bowhead whale, Seismic survey, Distance sampling, Beaufort Sea, Availability, g(0), Alaska, Spatial models, Behavior, Generalized additive model
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Quantitative DNA metabarcoding: improved estimates of species proportional biomass using correction factors derived from control material.
Thomas, A. C., B. E. Deagle, P. J. Eveson, C. H. Harsch and A. W. Trites. 2016.
Molecular Ecology Resources 16:714-726.
abstract
DNA metabarcoding is a powerful new tool allowing characterization of species assemblages using high-throughput amplicon sequencing. The utility of DNA metabarcoding for quantifying relative species abundances is currently limited by both biological and technical biases which influence sequence read counts. We tested the idea of sequencing 50/50 mixtures of target species and a control species in order to generate relative correction factors (RCFs) that account for multiple sources of bias and are applicable to field studies. RCFs will be most effective if they are not affected by input mass ratio or co-occurring species. In a model experiment involving three target fish species and a fixed control, we found RCFs did vary with input ratio but in a consistent fashion, and that 50/50 RCFs applied to DNA sequence counts from various mixtures of the target species still greatly improved relative abundance estimates (e.g., average per species error of 19 ± 8% for uncorrected versu s 3 ± 1% for corrected estimates). To demonstrate the use of correction factors in a field setting, we calculated 50/50 RCFs for 18 harbour seal (Phoca vitulina) prey species (RCFs ranging from 0.68 to 3.68). Applying these corrections to field-collected seal scats affected species percentages from individual samples (Δ 6.7 ± 6.6%) more than population level species estimates (Δ 1.7 ± 1.2%). Our results indicate that the 50/50 RCF approach is an effective tool for evaluating and correcting biases in DNA metabarcoding studies. The decision to apply correction factors will be influenced by the feasibility of creating tissue mixtures for the target species, and the level of accuracy needed to meet research objectives.

keywords     DNA metabarcoding, high-throughput amplicon sequencing, harbor seal, Phoca vitulina, diets, prey consumption, diet reconstruction, scats, fecal samples
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One-two punches to eliminate depredation by marine mammals on fish caught or raised for human consumption.
Trites, A. W. and J. Spitz. 2016.
Animal Conservation 19:222-224.
abstract
The ultimate solution to protecting fish farms and fishing gear from marine mammals is not yet at hand - and there is unlikely to be a one-size-fits-all solution. Protecting fish raised in open-ocean meshed pens will likely prove to be a two-stepped process that begins with using physical barriers around pens to prevent predators from obtaining the fish (such as predator exclusion nets) - and turning to sound (such as acoustic deterrence) as the second step to quickly push back any individuals that breach the protective perimeter. Some capture fisheries may be able to protect their catches using barriers (such as traps instead of hooks) or using smart fishing techniques (such as shorter soak times, or modified hauling techniques), while others might find electrified nets and acoustic deterrence are effective in scaring predators in the short-term. Unfortunately, all technologically-based deterrence methods are likely to fail in the long-term as animals adapt to prolonged stimulus and find the rewards they receive to be greater than the price they pay to obtain them. New technologies often also equate to new problems and conflicts - it is just that no one knows yet what they are until the technology has been fully implemented. Thus, simple (but perhaps initially expensive) options that prevent predators from seeing or accessing the fish intended for human consumption are likely to be the most successful, while the technologically based solutions are likely to be most successful when used sparingly. Using one-two punch solutions that combine the two methods would seem to have the greatest likelihood of successfully reducing or removing conflicts between fisheries and marine mammals. They may also ultimately yield the peace of mind that society and those whose livelihoods depend on harvesting marine species seek to ensure t hat humans can co-exist with marine mammals with minimal conflict.

keywords     depredation, marine mammals, fisheries, fish farms, acoustic deterrence, harbor seal, harbor porpoise
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Transiting to depth disrupts the relationship between overall dynamic body acceleration and oxygen consumption in freely diving Steller sea lions.
Volpov, B.L., E.T. Goundie, D.A.S. Rosen, A.W. Trites and J.P.Y. Arnould. 2016.
Marine Ecology Progress Series 562:221-236.
abstract
Previous research has presented contradictory evidence on the ability of overall dynamic body acceleration (ODBA) to predict oxygen consumption (sV̇O2) in air-breathing diving vertebrates. We investigated a potential source of these discrepancies by partitioning the ODBA: sV̇O2 relationship over 3 phases of the dive cycle (transiting to and from depth, bottom time, and post-dive surface interval). Trained Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) executed 4 types of dives to 40 m (single dives, long-duration dive bouts of 4-6 dives, short-duration dive bouts of 10 or 12 dives, and transit dives with minimal bottom duration). Partitioning single dives by dive phase showed differing patterns in the ODBA: sV̇O2 relationship among dive phases, but no significant linear relationships were observed. The proportion of the dive cycle spent transiting to and from the surface was a significant predictive factor in the ODBA: sV̇O2 relationship, while bottom duration or post-dive surface interval had no effect. ODBA only predicted sV̇O2 for dives when the proportion of time spent transiting was small. The apparent inability of ODBA to reliably predict sV̇O2 reflects differences in the inherent relationships between ODBA and sV̇O2 during different phases of the dive. These results support the growing body of evidence that ODBA on its own is not a reliable field predictor of energy expenditure at the level of the single dive or dive bout in air-breathing diving vertebrates likely because ODBA (a physical measure) cannot account for physiological changes in sV̇O2 that occur during the different phases of a dive cycle.

keywords     diving behaviour, metabolic rate, ODBA, dive phase, pinniped
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Averaged propulsive body acceleration (APBA) can be calculated from biologging tags that incorporate gyroscopes and accelerometers to estimate swimming speed, hydrodynamic drag and energy expenditure for Steller sea lions.
Ware, C., A. W. Trites, D. A. S. Rosen and J. Potvin. 2016.
PLoS ONE 11(6): e0157326
abstract
Forces due to propulsion should approximate forces due to hydrodynamic drag for animals horizontally swimming at a constant speed with negligible buoyancy forces. Propulsive forces should also correlate with energy expenditures associated with locomotion預n important cost of foraging. As such, biologging tags containing accelerometers are being used to generate proxies for animal energy expenditures despite being unable to distinguish rotational movements from linear movements. However, recent miniaturizations of gyroscopes offer the possibility of resolving this shortcoming and obtaining better estimates of body accelerations of swimming animals. We derived accelerations using gyroscope data for swimming Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus), and determined how well the measured accelerations correlated with actual swimming speeds and with theoretical drag. We also compared dive averaged dynamic body acceleration estimates that incorporate gyroscope data, with the widely used Overa ll Dynamic Body Acceleration (ODBA) metric, which does not use gyroscope data. Four Steller sea lions equipped with biologging tags were trained to swim alongside a boat cruising at steady speeds in the range of 4 to 10 kph. At each speed, and for each dive, we computed a measure called Gyro-Informed Dynamic Acceleration (GIDA) using a method incorporating gyroscope data with accelerometer data. We derived a new metric輸veraged Propulsive Body Acceleration (APBA), which is the average gain in speed per flipper stroke divided by mean stroke cycle duration. Our results show that the gyro-based measure (APBA) is a better predictor of speed than ODBA. We also found that APBA can estimate average thrust production during a single stroke-glide cycle, and can be used to estimate energy expended during swimming. The gyroscope-derived methods we describe should be generally applicable in swimming animals where propulsive accelerations can be clearly identified in the signal預nd they should also prove useful for dead-reckoning and improving estimates of energy expenditures from locomotion.

keywords     biologging, ODBA, accelerometer, gyroscope, swimming, speed, energy expenditure, drag, stroke
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2015
 
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.
abstract
We reconstructed the foraging tracks of lactating northern fur seals (Callorhinus 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
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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
abstract
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
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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.
abstract
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 Ä… 65.7 kJ kg-1 d-1 (Ä… 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
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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.
abstract
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
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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
abstract
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
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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) pp. 75
abstract
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
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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.
abstract
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
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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.
abstract
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
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Correction factors account for the availability of bowhead whales exposed to seismic operations in the Beaufort Sea.
Robertson, F.C., W.R. Koski, J.R. Brandon, T.A. Thomas, and A.W. Trites. 2015.
Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 15:35-44.
abstract
The accuracy of estimates of cetacean density from line-transect survey data depends in large part on how visible the target species is to the observer. Behavioural data (i.e. surface and dive times) from government- and industry-funded aerial observation programs (1980-2000) were used to calculate availability correction factors needed to estimate the number of bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) from aerial survey sighting data. Correction factors were calculated for bowheads exposed and not exposed to seismic operations. Travelling non-calf whales were found to be less likely to be available for detection than other whales, and their availability further declined in the presence of seismic operations. Non-calves were also less available to observers during autumn when exposed to seismic operations than when not exposed, regardless of activity (travelling or otherwise). Such differences in availability appear to reflect behavioural responses to the sound of seismi cooperations that alters the surfacing and diving patterns of bowhead whales. Localised abundance estimated from aerial surveys may range from 3% to as much as 63% higher in areas ensonified by seismic operations if correction factors are applied to account for differences in availability associated with the presence of seismic operations, compared to abundance estimates derived from assessments that only account for changes in availability of undisturbed whales. These results provide the first empirical estimates of availability for bowhead whales exposed to seismic operations and highlight the implications of not correcting for disturbance-related availability in density assessments in the vicinity of seismic operations.
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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.
abstract
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.
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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.
abstract
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
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Diet of Harbour seals Phoca vitulina: implication for the flatfish nursery in the Bay of Somme (English Channel, France).
Spitz, J., L. Dupuis, V. Becquet, B. Dubief and A.W. Trites. 2015.
Aquatic Living Resources 28:11-19.
abstract
Changes in marine species abundance can impact ecosystems’ stability and sustainability of fisheries. In the eastern Atlantic Ocean, harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) are top predator occupying highest trophic level in coastal marine food webs. Although, the overall European population decline, harbour seals have increased dramatically since the 1990Â’s at the southern limit of their European distribution along the French coast of the English Channel. However, little is known about the feeding habits of the expanding peripheral populations limiting the assessment of the role and the impact of this predator in these coastal ecosystems. Here, we investigated the sex-specific diet of harbour seals during summer in the Bay of Somme, the largest colony in the English Channel. We collected 91 faecal samples from haul-out sites mainly used by harbour seal but also by few grey seals. Molecular methods have been used to discard grey seal samples and differentiate gender. Collectively, the 86 faecal samples of harbour seals contained the remains of 3327 prey belonging to at least 13 fish species, and represented ~109 kg of consumed fish (of which 85% were soles and plaices). Most of the fish consumed were juvenile and small flatfish (Buglossidium luteum, Microchirus variegatus, Solea vulgaris, Pegusa lascaris, Pleuronectes platessa and Platichthys flesus). Hard-part identification further showed a similar diet between the sexes in terms of primary prey consumed, but a greater diversity of preys in the male diet. The dependence of harbour seals on flatfish has not been reported elsewhere and has significant implications for the sustainability of the important flatfish nursery in the Bay of Somme. Consumption estimation and ecosystem modelling are now required to provide robust assessment of the effect of harbour seal predation on population dynamics of the flatfish nursery, on ecosystem of the Bay of Biscay at- large, and finally on interactions with fisheries.
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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.
abstract
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
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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 185:695-708.
abstract
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
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2014
 
Energetic linkages between short-term and long-term effects of whale watching disturbance on cetaceans: an example drawn from northeast Pacific resident killer whales.
Bain, D.E., R. Williams, and A.W. Trites. 2014.
In L. Bejder and R. Williams J. E. S. Higham (eds), Whale-watching, sustainable tourism and ecological management. Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom. pp. 206-228.
abstract
The core objective of efforts to understand and mitigate the effects of whale-watching has been to ensure the survival of populations. The first rigorous studies in the 1980s simply demonstrated that short-term behavioural responses existed. Managers, both in the private sector (whale-watch operators) and public sector responded with simple guidelines. Later studies showed some practices elicited stronger responses than others, and managers again responded with more effective guidelines to preclude activities that elicited strong evasive responses from killer whales. Recent work has shown that these guidelines are insufficient to prevent effects likely to be directly related to fitness (e.g. a reduction in foraging activity and increases in energy expenditure). As managers contemplate how to respond to such results, models such as ours can be constructed to address how short-term effects might relate to population dynamics, and whether data support a correlation between the quantity of exposure and shifts in population growth and decline. As better parameter estimates become available to inform these simple bioenergetics and population dynamics models, they should provide sufficient accuracy and precision to determine whether the effects of vessel traffic are sufficient to reduce the probability that the populations will survive in the long term (i.e. do they exceed potential biological removal (PBR)), or do the cumulative effects of whale watching and other human activities put the population in jeopardy of imminent extinction? The resident killer whales of the northeast Pacific represent an exceedingly data-rich case study of behavior and population biology, but they also represent an interesting study in management. The degree to which management is or is not precautionary determines how much evidence of population-level effects is needed before management actions are imposed. And as some of the science that has been done on this population is applied to other cetaceans, it is important to spell out another lesson learned— namely, that it is essential to specify quantitative management objectives that identify how much of an effect managers are willing to tolerate (limits of acceptable change, PBR and uncertainty:. Otherwise, the science can and will continue without serving any practical purpose as long as the whales persist.
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Broad thermal capacity facilitates the primarily pelagic existence of northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus).
Dalton, A.J.M., D.A.S. Rosen and A.W. Trites. 2014.
Marine Mammal Science 30:994-1013.
abstract
Thermoregulatory capacity may constrain the distribution of marine mammals despite having anatomical and physiological adaptations to compensate for the thermal challenges of an aquatic lifestyle. We tested whether subadult female northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) experience increased thermoregulatory costs in water temperatures potentially encountered during their annual migration in the Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean. Metabolic rates were measured seasonally in 6 captive female northern fur seals (2.75 to 3.5 yr old) in ambient air and controlled water temperatures of 2, 10, and 18 °C. Rates of oxygen consumption in ambient air (1 – 18 °C) were not related to environmental temperature except below 2.5 °C (winter only). However, metabolism was significantly higher during the fall seasonal trials (Sept – Oct) compared to other times of year, perhaps due to the costs of molting. The fur seals appeared thermally neutral in all seasons for all water temperat ures tested (2 – 18 °C) except during the summer when metabolic rates were higher in the 2 °C water. Comparing this broad thermal neutral zone to the average sea surface temperatures potentially encountered during annual migrations indicates wild fur seals can likely exploit a large geographic area without added thermal metabolic costs.
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Season and time of day affect the ability of accelerometry and the doubly labeled water methods to measure energy expenditure in northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus).
Dalton, A.J.M., D.A.S. Rosen and A.W. Trites. 2014.
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 452:125-136.
abstract
Estimates of energy expenditure for free-ranging animals are essential to answering a range of fundamental questions in animal biology, but are challenging to obtain and difficult to validate. We simultaneously employed three methods to measure the energy expenditure of 6 captive female northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) during 5-day trials across 4 seasons: respirometry (oxygen consumption), doubly labeled water (DLW), and accelerometry. The DLW method estimated that the fur seals expended 13.1 ? 16.5% more energy than indicated by the more direct measures of oxygen consumption. Accelerometry failed to predict the average mass specific rate of oxygen consumption (VË™ O2DEE) within the individual seasons over entire 5- day trials. However, on a finer time scale (15 or 60 min) and adjusted for time of day, accelerometry estimated energy expenditure within an average difference of 5.4 ? 29.3% (60 min intervals) and 13.8 ? 39.5% (15 min intervals) of respirometry measured values. Our findings suggest that accelerometers have the potential to be more effective than the DLW method for measuring energy expenditure of free-ranging animals. However, rates of oxygen consumption varied with season, independent of overall activity. Seasonal effects (and time of day for accelerometry) must therefore be accounted for when estimating energy expenditure from measures of DLW and acceleration of free-swimming northern fur seals. Such corrections required for estimating energy expenditures in northern fur seals have implications for using accelerometers and DLW to estimate the energy expenditure of other species.

keywords     accelerometry, Callorhinus ursinus, daily energy expenditure, doubly labeled water, northern fur seal, respirometry
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Inflation and deflation pressure-volume loops in anesthetized pinnipeds confirms compliant chest and lungs.
Fahlman, A., S.H. Loring, S.P. Johnson, M. Haulena, A.W. Trites, V.A. Fravel and W.G. Van Bonn. 2014.
Frontiers in Physiology Vol 5(433)
abstract
We examined structural properties of the marine mammal respiratory system, and tested Scholander's hypothesis that the chest is highly compliant by measuring the mechanical properties of the respiratory system in five species of pinniped under anesthesia (Pacific harbor seal, Phoca vitulina; northern elephant seal, Mirounga angustirostris; northern fur seal Callorhinus ursinus; California sea lion, Zalophus californianus; and Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus). We found that the chest wall compliance (CCW) of all five species was greater than lung compliance (airways and alveoli, CL) as predicted by Scholander, which suggests that the chest provides little protection against alveolar collapse or lung squeeze. We also found that specific respiratory compliance was significantly greater in wild animals than in animals raised in an aquatic facility. While differences in ages between the two groups may affect this incidental finding, it is also possible that lung conditioning in free-living animals may increase pulmonary compliance and reduce the risk of lung squeeze during diving. Overall, our data indicate that compliance of excised pinniped lungs provide a good estimate of total respiratory compliance.
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Sensitivity to hypercapnia and elimination of CO2 following diving in Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
Gerlinsky, C.D., D.A.S. Rosen and A.W. Trites. 2014.
Journal of Comparative Physiology B. 184:535-544.
abstract
Marine mammal foraging behaviour inherently depends on diving ability. Declining populations of Steller sea lions may be facing nutritional stress that could affect their diving ability through changes in body composition or metabolism. Our objective was to determine whether nutritional stress (restricted food intake resulting in a 10% decrease in body mass) altered the calculated aerobic dive limit (cADL) of four captive sea lions diving in the open ocean, and how this related to changes in observed dive behaviour. We measured diving metabolic rate (DMR), blood O2 stores, body composition and dive behaviour prior to and while under nutritional restriction. We found that nutritionally stressed sea lions increased the duration of their single long dives, and the proportion of time they spent at the surface during a cycle of four dives. Nutritionally stressed sea lions lost both lipid and lean mass, resulting in potentially lower muscle O2 stores. However, total body O2 stores increased due to rises in blood O2 stores associated with having higher blood volumes. Nutritionally stressed sea lions also had higher mass-specific metabolic rates. The greater rise in O2 stores relative to the increase in mass-specific DMR resulted in the sea lions having a longer cADL when nutritionally stressed. We conclude that there was no negative effect of nutritional stress on the diving ability of sea lions. However, nutritional stress did lower foraging efficiency and require more foraging time to meet energy requirements due to increases in diving metabolic rates and surface recovery times.
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Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) have greater blood volumes, higher diving metabolic rates and a longer aerobic dive limit when nutritionally stressed.
Gerlinsky, C.D., A.W. Trites and D.A.S. Rosen. 2014.
Journal of Experimental Biology 217:769-778.
abstract
Marine mammal foraging behavior inherently depends on diving ability. Declining populations of Steller sea lions may be facing nutritional stress that could affect their diving ability through changes in body composition or metabolism. Our objective was to determine whether nutritional stress (restricted food intake resulting in a 10% decrease in body mass) altered the calculated aerobic dive limit (cADL) of four captive sea lions diving in the open ocean, and how this related to changes in observed dive behaviour. We measured diving metabolic rate (DMR), blood O2 stores, body composition and dive behaviour prior to and while under nutritional restriction. We found that nutritionally stressed sea lions increased the duration of their single long dives, and the proportion of time they spent at the surface during a cycle of four dives. Nutritionally stressed sea lions lost both lipid and lean mass, resulting in potentially lower muscle O2 stores. However, total body O2 stores increased due to rises in blood O2 stores associated with having higher blood volumes. Nutritionally stressed sea lions also had higher mass-specific metabolic rates. The greater rise in O2 stores relative to the increase in mass-specific DMR resulted in the sea lions having a longer cADL when nutritionally stressed. We conclude that there was no negative effect of nutritional stress on the diving ability of sea lions. However, nutritional stress did lower foraging efficiency and require more foraging time to meet energy requirements due to increases in diving metabolic rates and surface recovery times.

keywords     Steller sea lion, blood volume, nutritional stress, diving metabolism, oxygen stores, dive behavior
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Bayesian melding of the dead-reckoned path and GPS measurements for an accurate and high-resolution path of marine mammals.
Liu, Y., B.C. Battaile, J. V. Zidek and A.W. Trites. 2014.
arXiv Vol 14116683v2
abstract
With the recent advances in electrical engineering, devices attached to free-ranging marine mammals today can collect oceanographic data in remarkable high spatial-temporal resolution. However, those data cannot be fully utilized without a matching high-resolution and accurate path of the animal, which is currently missing in this field. In this paper, we develop a Bayesian melding approach based on a Brownian Bridge process to combine the fine-resolution but seriously biased Dead-Reckoned path and the precise but sparse GPS measurements, which results in an accurate and high-resolution estimated path together with credible bands as quantified uncertainty statements. We also exploit the properties of underlying processes and some approximations to the likelihood to dramatically reduce the computational burden of handling those big high resolution data sets.

keywords     Dead reckoning, swimming path, northern fur seal, Bayesian melding, Brownian Bridge
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The decline of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in the North Pacific: insights from indigenous people, ethnohistoric records and archaeological data.
Maschner, H. D. G., A. W. Trites, K. L. Reedy-Maschner and M. Betts. 2014.
Fish and Fisheries 15:634-660.
abstract
A number of hypotheses have been proposed to explain the most recent decline (1977-2012) of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands. We examined hypotheses about fisheries competition, environmental change, predation, anthropogenic effects, and disease using observations of modern Aleut and archaeological, ethnohistoric, and ethnographic data from the western Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands. These data indicate that Steller sea lion numbers have declined and recovered repeatedly over the past 4,500 years and were last at critically low numbers during the 1870s-1930s. Steller sea lions appear to have been more abundant during the cool periods—and lower during the warmer periods. Observations by local peoples, explorers, early government surveyors, and biologists since the late 1800s suggest that low populations of Steller sea lions have been associated with high populations of Gadidae fishes (Pacific cod – Gadus macrocephalus and walleye pollock – Theragra chalcogramma), and are consistent with the ocean climate hypothesis to explain the decline of sea lions. They suggest that removals by people and killer whales (Orcinus orca) did not cause the sea lion declines, but could have compounded the magnitude of the decline as sea lion numbers approached low densities. Archaeological, anthropological and ethnohistorical analyses demonstrate that fluctuations have occurred in the North Pacific over hundreds to thousands of years, and provide context for understanding the changes that occur today and the changes that will continue to occur in the future.
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Short-term episodes of imposed fasting have a greater effect on young northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) in summer than in winter.
Rosen, D. A. S., B. L. Volpov and A. W. Trites. 2014.
Conservation Physiology 2:1-9.
abstract
Unexpected shortages of food may affect wildlife differently depending on the time of year it occurs. We imposed 48-hr fasts on six female northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus; ages 6 ? 24 months) to identify times of year when they might be particularly sensitive to interruptions in food supply. We monitored changes in their resting metabolic rates and their metabolic response to thermal challenges, and also examined potential bioenergetic causes for seasonal differences in body mass loss. Pre-fast metabolism of the fur seals while in ambient air or submerged in 4 ?C water was higher during summer (Jun-Sep) than winter (Nov-Mar), and submergence did not significantly increase metabolism indicating a lack of additional thermoregulatory costs. There was no evidence of metabolic depression following the fasting periods, nor did metabolism increase during the post-fast thermal challenge, suggesting that mass loss did not negatively impact thermoregulatory capacity. However, the fur seals lost mass at greater rates while fasting during the summer months when metabolism is normally high to facilitate faster growth rates (which would ordinarily have been supported by higher food intake levels). Our findings suggest that summer is a more critical time of year than winter for young northern fur seals to obtain adequate nutrition.
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Thermal limits in young northern fur seals, Callorhinus ursinus.
Rosen, D.A.S. and A.W. Trites. 2014.
Marine Mammal Science 30(3):1014-1028.
abstract
The thermoregulatory abilities of northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) during their first two years in the frigid waters of the North Pacific Ocean may limit their geographic distribution and alter the costs for exploiting different species of prey. We determined the thermoneutral zone of 6 young northern fur seals by measuring their metabolism in ambient air and controlled water temperatures (0-12 °C) from ages 8 to 24 mo. We found that the ambient air temperatures within our study (overall 1.5-23.9 °C) did not affect resting metabolic rates. Calculated lower critical temperatures in water varied between 3.9 and 8.0 °C, while an upper critical temperature in water was only discernible during a single set of trials. These thermal responses provide insight into the possible physiological constraints on foraging ecology in young northern fur seals, as well as the potential energetic consequences of ocean climate change and altered prey distributions.

keywords     Northern fur seal, Callorhinus ursinus, thermoregulation, metabolism, bioenergetics
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Drag, but not buoyancy, affects swim speed in captive Steller sea lions.
Suzuki, I., K. Sato, A. Fahlman, Y. Naito, N. Miyazaki and A. W. Trites. 2014.
Biology Open 3:379-386.
abstract
Swimming at an optimal speed is critical for breath-hold divers seeking to maximize the time they can spend foraging underwater. Theoretical studies have predicted that the optimal swim speed for an animal while transiting to and from depth is independent of buoyancy, but is dependent on drag and metabolic rate. However, this prediction has never been experimentally tested. Our study assessed the effects of buoyancy and drag on the swim speed of three captive Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) that made 186 dives. Our study animals were trained to dive to feed at fixed depths (10–50 m) under artificially controlled buoyancy and drag conditions. Buoyancy and drag were manipulated using a pair of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) tubes attached to harnesses worn by the sea lions, and buoyancy conditions were designed to fall within the natural range of wild animals (,12–26% subcutaneous fat). Drag conditions were changed with and without the PVC tubes, and swim speeds were recorded and compared during descent and ascent phases using an accelerometer attached to the harnesses. Generalized linear mixed-effect models with the animal as the random variable and five explanatory variables (body mass, buoyancy, dive depth, dive phase, and drag) showed that swim speed was best predicted by two variables, drag and dive phase (AIC=-139). Consistent with a previous theoretical prediction, the results of our study suggest that the optimal swim speed of Steller sea lions is a function of drag, and is independent of dive depth and buoyancy.
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Improving accuracy of DNA diet estimates using food tissue control materials and an evaluation of proxies for digestion bias.
Thomas, A.C., S.N. Jarman, K.H. Haman, A.W. Trites and B.E. Deagle. 2014.
Molecular Ecology 23:3706-3718.
abstract
Ecologists are increasingly interested in quantifying consumer diets based on food DNA in dietary samples and high-throughput sequencing of marker genes. It is tempting to assume that food DNA sequence proportions recovered from diet samples are representative of consumer's diet proportions, despite the fact that captive feeding studies do not support that assumption. Here, we examine the idea of sequencing control materials of known composition along with dietary samples in order to correct for technical biases introduced during amplicon sequencing, and biological biases such as variable gene copy number. Using the Ion Torrent PGM©, we sequenced prey DNA amplified from scats of captive harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) fed a constant diet including three fish species in known proportions. Alongside, we sequenced a prey tissue mix matching the seals’ diet to generate Tissue Correction Factors (TCFs). TCFs improved the diet estimates (based on sequence proportions) for all species and reduced the average estimate error from 28 ± 15% (uncorrected), to 14 ± 9% (TCF corrected). The experimental design also allowed us to infer the magnitude of prey-specific digestion biases and calculate Digestion Correction Factors (DCFs). The DCFs were compared to possible proxies for differential digestion (e.g., fish% protein,% lipid,% moisture) revealing a strong relationship between the DCFs and percent lipid of the fish prey, suggesting prey-specific corrections based on lipid content would produce accurate diet estimates in this study system. These findings demonstrate the value of parallel sequencing of food tissue mixtures in diet studies and offer new directions for future research in quantitative DNA diet analysis.

keywords     next-generation sequencing; diet analysis; pinniped; correction factors
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2013
 
Linking survival and reproductive can improve model estimates of vital rates derived from limited time-series counts of pinnipeds and other species.
Battaile, B.C. and A.W. Trites. 2013.
PLoS ONE. Vol 8(11):e77389
abstract
We propose a method to model the physiological link between somatic survival and reproductive output that reduces the number of parameters that need to be estimated by models designed to determine combinations of birth and death rates that produce historic counts of animal populations. We applied our Reproduction and Somatic Survival Linked (RSSL) method to the population counts of three species of North Pacific pinnipeds (harbor seals, Phoca vitulina richardii (Gray, 1864); northern fur seals, Callorhinus ursinus (L., 1758); and Steller sea lions, Eumetopias jubatus (Schreber, 1776))—and found our model outperformed traditional models when fitting vital rates to common types of limited datasets, such as those from counts of pups and adults. However, our model did not perform as well when these basic counts of animals were augmented with additional observations of ratios of juveniles to total non-pups. In this case, the failure of the ratios to improve model performance may indicate that the relationship between survival and reproduction is redefined or disassociated as populations change over time or that the ratio of juveniles to total non-pups is not a meaningful index of vital rates. Overall, our RSSL models show advantages to linking survival and reproduction within models to estimate the vital rates of pinnipeds and other species that have limited time-series of counts.

keywords     Callorhinus ursinus, Eumetopias jubatus, harbor seal, model parameterization, northern fur seal, Phoca vitulina richardii, pinniped, population dynamics, reproduction, senescence, survival, vital rates
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Prey patch patterns predict habitat use by top marine predators with diverse foraging strategies.
Benoit-Bird, K. J., B. C. Battaile, S. A. Heppell, B. Hoover, D. Irons, N. Jones, K. J. Kuletz, C. A. Nordstrom, R. Paredes, R. M. Suryan, C. M. Waluk and A. W. Trites. 2013.
PLoS ONE Vol 8(1):e53348.
abstract
Spatial coherence between predators and prey has rarely been observed in pelagic marine ecosystems. We used measures of the environment, prey abundance, prey quality, and prey distribution to explain the observed distributions of three cooccurring predator species breeding on islands in the southeastern Bering Sea: black-legged kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla), thick-billed murres (Uria lomvia), and northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus). Predictions of statistical models were tested using movement patterns obtained from satellite-tracked individual animals. With the most commonly used measures to quantify prey distributions - areal biomass, density, and numerical abundance - we were unable to find a spatial relationship between predators and their prey. We instead found that habitat use by all three predators was predicted most strongly by prey patch characteristics such as depth and local density within spatial aggregations. Additional prey patch characteristics and physic al habitat also contributed significantly to characterizing predator patterns. Our results indicate that the smallscale prey patch characteristics are critical to how predators perceive the quality of their food supply and the mechanisms they use to exploit it, regardless of time of day, sampling year, or source colony. The three focal predator species had different constraints and employed different foraging strategies – a shallow diver that makes trips of moderate distance (kittiwakes), a deep diver that makes trip of short distances (murres), and a deep diver that makes extensive trips (fur seals). However, all three were similarly linked by patchiness of prey rather than by the distribution of overall biomass. This supports the hypothesis that patchiness may be critical for understanding predator-prey relationships in pelagic marine systems more generally.
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Foraging behavior of northern fur seals closely matches the hierarchical patch scales of prey.
Benoit-Bird, K. J., B. C. Battaile, C. A. Nordstrom and A. W. Trites. 2013.
Marine Ecology Progress Series 479:283-302.
abstract
Marine prey often occur in hierarchical mosaics whereby small, high-density patches are nested inside of larger, lower density aggregations. We tested the extent to which the foraging behavior of a marine predator (northern fur seal Callorhinus ursinus) could be explained by the hierarchical patch structure of a dominant prey species (juvenile walleye pollock Theragra chalcogramma) in the eastern Bering Sea. Comparing the movements of satellite-tracked fur seals with ship-based acoustic surveys of prey revealed that fur seals did not randomly search for prey, but instead showed deviations in the distribution of step-lengths (distances between their foraging patches) corresponding to the distances between aggregations of prey. Scales of prey distribution varied between Bering Sea shelf and deep-water slope habitats, while spatial scale distributions of fur seals showed corresponding changes, indicating that their search strategies were not innate patterns decoupled from the environment. Fur seals tended to avoid the smallest prey patches in both shelf and slope habitats. They also avoided prey patches that were separated by large distances. Fur seals responded to several levels of prey patchiness simultaneously, resulting in strong correlations between predator and prey over the entire range of aggregation scales observed in juvenile pollock. Our results indicate that, despite having a varied diet, fur seal foraging paths were defined by juvenile pollock aggregations. The presence of hierarchical, scale-dependent aggregation in both predator and prey provides new insights into fur seal behavior and a means to predict the dynamics of their interactions with prey.

keywords     Patchiness, Spatial scale, Predator–prey, Foraging behavior, Hierarchical, Northern fur seal, Juvenile walleye pollock
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Faecal DNA amplification in Pacific walruses (Odobenus rosmarus divergens).
Bowles, E. and A.W. Trites. 2013.
Polar Biology. 36:755-759.
abstract
Dietary information is critical for assessing the population status of seals, sea lions and walruses—and is determined for most species of pinnipeds using non-invasive methods. However, diets of walruses continue to be described from the stomach contents of dead individuals. Our goal was to assess whether DNA could be extracted from the faeces of Pacific walruses (O. rosmarus divergens) collected at haulout sites, and whether potential prey species or taxa could be amplified from that DNA. We extracted DNA from 70 faecal samples collected from ice pans in the Bering Sea during the spring of 2008 and 2009 (with between 4.6 and 308.9 ng/µl of DNA in every sample). We also extracted DNA from 12 potential prey species or taxa collected by bottom grabs in 2009 to identify positive controls for primers, and to test the ability of previously published taxon-specific and species-specific primers to correctly identify the prey using conventional PCR. We tested primers that successfu lly amplified DNA from the tissue of at least one potential prey species or taxon on all 70 walrus faecal samples. We found that two sets of primers successfully amplified many of the potential prey species or taxa using DNA from their tissue, and that one of these primer sets produced positive amplification in 4 of the 70 faecal samples. The band size that was produced for prey organisms and in the faecal samples was consistent with expectations, although prey identities were not verified with sequencing. Our pilot study demonstrates that DNA can be successfully extracted and amplified from walrus faeces, providing a stepping stone towards describing the diets of walruses from faecal DNA.
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Quantifying sequence proportions in a DNA-based diet study using Ion Torrent amplicon sequencing: which counts count?
Deagle, B.E., A.C. Thomas, A. K. Shaffer, A.W. Trites, and S.N. Jarman. 2013.
Molecular Ecology Resources
abstract
A goal of many environmental DNA barcoding studies is to infer quantitative information about relative abundances of different taxa based on sequence read proportions generated by high-throughput sequencing. However, potential biases associated with this approach are only beginning to be examined. We sequenced DNA amplified from faeces (scats) of captive harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) to investigate whether sequence counts could be used to quantify the seals’ diet. Seals were fed fish in fixed proportions, a chordate- specific mitochondrial 16S marker was amplified from scat DNA and amplicons sequenced using an Ion Torrent PGM™. For a given set of bioinformatic parameters, there was generally low variability between scat samples in proportions of prey species sequences recovered. However, proportions varied substantially depending on sequencing direction, level of quality filtering (due to differences in sequence quality between species) and minimum read length considered. Short primer tags used to identify individual samples also influenced species proportions. In addition, there were complex interactions between factors; for example, the effect of quality filtering was influenced by the primer tag and sequencing direction. Resequencing of a subset of samples revealed some, but not all, biases were consistent between runs. Less stringent data filtering (based on quality scores or read length) generally produced more consistent proportional data, but overall proportions of sequences were very different than dietary mass proportions, indicating additional technical or biological biases are present. Our findings highlight that quantitative interpretations of sequence proportions generated via high- throughput sequencing will require careful experimental design and thoughtful data analysis.

keywords     DNA barcoding, Ion Torrent, metabarcoding, next-generation sequencing, pinniped diet
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Activity as a proxy to estimate metabolic rate and to partition the metabolic cost of diving vs. breathing in pre- and post-fasted Steller sea lions.
Fahlman, A., C. Svärd, D. A. S. Rosen, R. Wilson and A. W. Trites. 2013.
Aquatic Biology 18:175-184.
abstract
Three Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus), trained to dive voluntarily to depths ranging from 10 to 50 m, were used to determine whether the relationship between activity and metabolic rate during a diving interval (MRDI, dive + surface interval) was affected by fasting (9-days) during the breeding season (spring through summer). We subsequently used the relationship between activity and MRDI to partition the metabolic costs between underwater breath-holding activity and surface breathing activities. We estimated activity from Overall Dynamic Body Acceleration (ODBA) measured using a 3-axis accelerometer, and measured MRDI using flow-through respirometry. The relationship between ODBA-based activity and MRDI was not affected by fasting period, suggesting ODBA can be used to predict energy expenditure regardless of nutritional state in the spring and summer. However, the relationship between ODBA and dive metabolic rate differs from the relationship between ODBA and the s urface metabolic rate before diving (MRSp). Partitioning MRDI into the metabolic cost of remaining at the surface (MRs) versus swimming underwater (MRUS) suggests that the metabolic cost of diving for Steller sea lions is approximately 29% lower than when breathing at the surface. ODBA appears to be a reasonable proxy to estimate metabolic rate in marine mammals, but more detailed behavioral data may be required to accurately apply the method in the field.
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Energetic requirements of North Atlantic right whales and the implications for species recovery.
Fortune, S.M.E., A.W. Trites, C.A. Mayo, D.A.S. Rosen and P.K. Hamilton. 2013.
Marine Ecology Progress Series. 478:253-272.
abstract
Management plans for North Atlantic right whales Eubalaena glacialis focus on preventing mortality from ship strikes and fishing gear entanglement. However, recovery may also be limited because individuals are under nutritional stress. We quantified the food requirements of North Atlantic right whales by age, sex and reproductive state and compared their predicted needs with field estimates of prey consumption to assess whether any demographic group of right whales might be nutritionally stressed. Energy requirements were estimated using a bioenergetics model that accounted for uncertainty in energy inputs and outputs. Consumption was estimated with prey samples taken near feeding whales in Cape Cod Bay (n = 28 net collections) and the Bay of Fundy (n = 19 optical plankton recordings). We found that calves required the least energy (~1767 MJ d-1) and that lactating females required the most (~4120 MJ d-1). Juveniles required considerably more energy than adult males and non-reproductive females. Our estimates of energy requirements for juveniles (~1906 MJ d-1), adult males (~1793 MJ d-1), and non-reproductive females (~2104 MJ d-1) compared favorably with estimates of actual consumption in Cape Cod Bay and the Bay of Fundy (i.e. they differed by ≤15%), suggesting that our model was reliable. However, lactating females appear to have obtained considerably less than their predicted energy requirements in both habitats. These findings suggest that lactating females may be experiencing an energy deficit, which may affect reproductive rates and slow population recovery. Nutritional stress may thus be limiting the recovery of North Atlantic right whales.

keywords     Bioenergetic model, Eubalaena glacialis, nutritional stress, energetic consumption, energetic requirements
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High diving metabolism results in a short aerobic dive limit for Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
Gerlinsky, C. D., D. A. S. Rosen and A. W. Trites. 2013.
Journal of Comparative Physiology. B, Biochemical, Systemic, and Environmental Physiology. 186:699-708.
abstract
The diving capacity of marine mammals is typically defined by the aerobic dive limit (ADL) which, in lieu of direct measurements, can be calculated (cADL) from total body oxygen stores (TBO) and diving metabolic rate (DMR). To estimate cADL, we measured blood oxygen stores, and combined this with diving oxygen consumption rates (VO(2) recorded from 4 trained Steller sea lions diving in the open ocean to depths of 10 or 40 m. We also examined the effect of diving exercise on O(2) stores by comparing blood O(2) stores of our diving animals to non-diving individuals at an aquarium. Mass-specific blood volume of the non-diving individuals was higher in the winter than in summer, but there was no overall difference in blood O(2) stores between the diving and non-diving groups. Estimated TBO (35.9 ml O(2) kg(-1) )was slightly lower than previously reported for Steller sea lions and other Otariids. Calculated ADL was 3.0 min (based on an average DMR of 2.24 L O(2) min(-1)) and was signific antly shorter than the average 4.4 min dives our study animals performed when making single long dives-but was similar to the times recorded during diving bouts (a series of 4 dives followed by a recovery period on the surface), as well as the dive times of wild animals. Our study is the first to estimate cADL based on direct measures of VO(2) and blood oxygen stores for an Otariid and indicates they have a much shorter ADL than previously thought.
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Inter-population movements of Steller sea lions in Alaska with implications for population separation.
Jemison, L.A., G.W. Pendleton, L.W. Fritz, K.K. Hastings, J.M. Maniscalco, A.W Trites and T.S. Gelatt. 2013.
PLoS ONE. Vol 8(8):e70167.
abstract
Genetic studies and differing population trends support the separation of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) into a western distinct population segment (WDPS) and an eastern DPS (EDPS) with the dividing line between populations at 144° W. Despite little exchange for thousands of years, the gap between the breeding ranges narrowed during the past 15–30 years with the formation of new rookeries near the DPS boundary. We analyzed >22,000 sightings of 4,172 sea lions branded as pups in each DPS from 2000–2010 to estimate probabilities of a sea lion born in one DPS being seen within the range of the other DPS (either ‘West’ or ‘East’). Males from both populations regularly traveled across the DPS boundary; probabilities were highest at ages 2–5 and for males born in Prince William Sound and southern Southeast Alaska. The probability of WDPS females being in the East at age 5 was 0.067 but 0 for EDPS females which rarely traveled to the West. Prince William Sound-born females had high probabilities of being in the East during breeding and non-breeding seasons. We present strong evidence that WDPS females have permanently emigrated to the East, reproducing at two ‘mixing zone’ rookeries. We documented breeding bulls that traveled 6,500 km round trip from their natal rookery in southern Alaska to the northern Bering Sea and central Aleutian Islands and back within one year. WDPS animals began moving East in the 1990s, following steep population declines in the central Gulf of Alaska. Results of our study, and others documenting high survival and rapid population growth in northern Southeast Alaska suggest that conditions in this mixing zone region have been optimal for sea lions. It is unclear whether eastward movement across the DPS boundary is due to less-optimal conditions in the West or a reflection of favorable conditions in the East.

keywords     branding, resights, distribution, migration, movements, colonization
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Foraging habitats of lactating northern fur seals are structured by thermocline depths and submesoscale fronts in the eastern Bering Sea.
Nordstrom, C. A., B.C. Battaile, C. Cotté and A. W. Trites. 2013.
In Deep-Sea Research II: Topical Studies in Oceanography.  88-89:78-96.
abstract
The relationships between fine-scale oceanographic features, prey aggregations, and the foraging behavior of top predators are poorly understood. We investigated whether foraging patterns of lactating northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) from two breeding colonies located in different oceanographic domains of the eastern Bering Sea (St. Paul Island˜shelf; Bogoslof Island˜oceanic) were a function of submesoscale oceanographic features. We tested this by tracking 87 lactating fur seals instrumented with bio-logging tags (44 St. Paul Island, 43 Bogoslof Island) during JulyˆSeptember, 2009. We identified probable foraging hotspots using first-passage time analysis and statistically linked individual areas of high-use to fine-scale oceanographic features using mixed-effects Cox-proportional hazard models. We found no overlap in foraging areas used by fur seals from the two islands, but a difference in the duration of their foraging trips˜trips from St. Paul Island were twice as long (7.9 d average) and covered 3-times the distance (600 km average) compared to trips from Bogoslof Island. St. Paul fur seals also foraged at twice the scale (mean radius = 12 km) of Bogoslof fur seals (6 km), which suggests that prey were more diffuse near St. Paul Island than prey near Bogoslof Island. Comparing first passage times with oceanographic covariates revealed that foraging hotspots were linked to thermocline depth and occurred near submesoscale surface fronts (eddies and filaments). St. Paul fur seals that mixed epipelagic (night) and benthic (day) dives primarily foraged on-shelf in areas with deeper thermoclines that may have concentrated prey closer to the ocean floor, while strictly epipelagic (night) foragers tended to use waters with shallower thermoclines that may have aggregated prey closer to the surface. Fur seals from Bogoslof Island foraged almost exclusively over the Bering Sea basin and appeared to hunt intensively along submesoscale fronts that may have converged prey within narrow bands near the surface. Bogoslof fur seals also foraged closer to their island which was surrounded by strong surface fronts, while fur seals from St. Paul Island traveled4100 km and extended some trips off-shelf to the basin to forage at similar oceanographic features. The relative distribution and accessibility of prey-concentrating oceano- graphic features can account for the observed inter-island foraging patterns, which may in turn have population level consequences for the two fur seal colonies.

keywords     Habitat selection, First-passage time, Submesoscale features, Finite-size Lyapunov exponent,Cox proportional hazard model, Alaska, Eastern Bering Sea
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Northern fur seals augment ship-derived ocean temperatures with higher temporal and spatial resolution data in the eastern Bering Sea.
Nordstrom, C.A., K. J. Benoit-Bird, B.C. Battaile and A.W. Trites. 2013.
Deep Sea Research II 94:257-273.
abstract
Oceanographic data collected by marine vertebrates are increasingly being used in biological and physical studies under the assumption that data recorded by free-ranging animals are comparable to those from traditional vertical sampling. We tested this premise by comparing the water temperatures measured during a 2009 oceanographic cruise with those measured during 82 foraging trips by instrumented northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) in the eastern Bering Sea. The animal-borne data loggers were equipped with a fast-response temperature sensor and recorded 6,492 vertical profiles to depths ≥ 50 m during long distance (up to 600 km) foraging trips. Concurrent sampling during the oceanographic cruise collected 247 CTD casts in the same 5-week period. Average temperature differences between ship casts and seal dives (0.60 ± 0.61 °C), when the two were within 1 day and 10 km of each other (n = 32 stations), were comparable to mean differences between adjacent 10 km ship casts (0.46 ± 0.44 °C). Isosurfaces were evaluated at region wide scales at depths of 1 m and 50 m while the entire upper 100 m of the water column was analyzed at finer-scales in highly sampled areas. Similar trends were noted in the temperature fields produced by ships or seals despite the differences in sampling frequency and distribution. However, the fur seal dataset was of higher temporal and spatial resolution and was thereby able to visualize finer-detail with less error than ship-derived data, particularly in dynamic areas. Integrating the ship and seal datasets provided temperature maps with an unprecedented combination of resolution and coverage allowing fine-scale processes on-shelf and over the basin to be described simultaneously. Fur seals (n = 65 trips) also collected 4,700 additional profiles post ship cruise which allowed ≥1 °C warming of the upper 100 m to be documented through mid-September, including regions where ship sampling has traditionally been sparse. Our data show that hydrographic information collected by wide-ranging, diving animals such as fur seals can contribute physical data comparable to, or exceeding those, of traditional sampling methods at regional or finer scales when the questions of interest coincide with the ecology of the species.
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Seasonal changes in the food intake of captive Pacific white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens).
Piercey, R.S., E.U. Rechsteiner, B.C. Battaile and A.W. Trites. 2013.
Aquatic Mammals. 39:211-220.
abstract
The Pacific white-sided dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens) is one of the most abundant apex predators in the North Pacific Ocean, but little is known about how much food they consume and whether their food requirements vary seasonally. We attempted to address these two issues using the feeding records of five Pacific white-sided dolphins housed at the Vancouver Aquarium. These individuals consumed an average of 7.9 kg ± 0.35 (± SE) of fish and squid per day (~11,000 kcal day-1), which equated to ~7% of their body mass and an annual mean intake of 2,880 kg ± 131.8 (± SE) per dolphin (N = 5). Patterns of food consumption and seasonal changes were assessed using long-term feeding records (1977 to 2001) from a single adult female, and were found to be highest in terms of biomass and calories in late December, and about 15% less in late May and early June. Seasonal pool temperatures (range 6.5 to 21.5 C) were inversely related to food intake and accounted for part of the variation, suggesting that seasonal cues other than temperature triggered the changes in food consumption. Amounts of prey consumed by Pacific white-sided dolphins are undoubtedly higher in the wild than in captivity due to relative differences in their respective behaviors in the two environments. However, relative seasonal changes in energy requirements are likely to be independent of living conditions and have implications for estimating the energy requirements of Pacific white-sided dolphins in the wild.
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Energy requirements of Pacific white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens) as predicted by a bioenergetic model.
Rechsteiner, E. U., D. A. S. Rosen and A. W. Trites. 2013.
Journal of Mammalogy 94:820-832.
abstract
Apex predators such as Pacific white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens) have the potential to impact prey populations and to be affected by changes in prey abundance. As an abundant predator that ranges widely across the North Pacific Ocean, their interactions with prey populations may have conservation implications. We estimated the energy required by individual Pacific white-sided dolphins using a bioenergetic model that accounted for different age classes and reproductive stages (calf, juvenile, adult, pregnant and lactating). Monte Carlo simulations incorporating variability in model parameters (body mass, growth rate, costs of gestation and lactation, metabolic rate, cost of activity, and assimilation efficiencies) were used to predict ranges in energetic requirements. Mean (±SD) total energy requirements in MJ day-1 were 40.3 ± 6.2 for calves, 70.8 ± 8.2 for juveniles, 69.0 ± 3.6 for adults, 70.3 ± 3.6 for pregnant females, and 98.4 ± 20.0 for lactating femal es. Estimates of energy requirements were most sensitive to uncertainty in values used for resting metabolic rates and energetic costs of activity. Estimated mass-specific energy requirements in MJ kg-1 day-1 were elevated in calves (1.55 ± 0.23), juveniles (0.97 ± 0.11) and lactating females (1.01 ± 0.21) when compared with non-reproductive adults and pregnant females (~0.71 ± 0.04). Based on a high-energy density diet, an average sized dolphin (78 kg) would consume approximately 12.5 - 15.8 kg of fish or 15-20% of its body weight per day. These high energetic requirements may indicate a reliance of dolphins on energy rich prey, which has implications for fisheries management and conservation of marine mammals.
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Seasonal resting metabolic rate and food intake of captive Pacific white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens).
Rechsteiner, E.U., D.A.S. Rosen and A.W. Trites. 2013.
Aquatic Mammals. 39:241-252.
abstract
Like many marine mammals, Pacific white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens) consume prey that change seasonally in numbers, distribution, and energy density. However, it is not known whether these ecological factors are associated with underlying seasonal changes in energy requirements. We investigated these potential seasonal shifts in physiology by measuring resting metabolic rate (a conserved physiological trait) and recording associated daily food energy intake of three captive adult Pacific white-sided dolphins over 12 consecutive months. Two dolphins that met the criteria for measuring resting metabolism had a mean (± SE) mass-specific rate of 0.31 ± 0.0047 MJ kg-1 day- 1 (~34 MJ day-1), which was higher than that of other species of small cetaceans. Resting metabolic rates of Pacific white-sided dolphins did not vary seasonally and, hence, were not related to observed seasonal changes in water or air temperature, total energy intake, or body mass. Overall, resting metabolism accounted for ~70% of total energy intake. However, total food energy intake changed seasonally and was highest during the fall (October to December). While levels of food intake were not predicted by resting metabolic rate, body mass, or water and air temperatures, the increased intake in the fall resulted in the seasonal increase in body mass exhibited by all three dolphins. Our estimates of resting metabolic rates and relative changes in total energy intake can be used to parameterize bioenergetic models needed to estimate the ecological impacts and energetic requirements of Pacific white-sided dolphins in the wild, which will have conservation implications.

keywords     energetics, oxygen consumption, Pacific white-sided dolphins, season, food intake, metabolic rate
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Seismic operations have variable effects on dive-cycle behavior of bowhead whales in the Beaufort Sea.
Robertson, F.C., W.R. Koski, T.A. Thomas, W.J. Richardson, B. Würsig, and A.W. Trites. 2013.
Endangered Species Research 21:143-160.
abstract
The surfacing, respiration and diving (SRD) behavior of bowhead whales Balaena mysticetus changes upon exposure to seismic operations. However, it is unknown whether these changes differ by season, reproductive status (calves, mothers, and non-calves), and whale activity (traveling, foraging, or socializing). Such SRD behavioral responses to seismic operations might influence the detectability of whales during aerial surveys. We addressed these questions by applying non-parametric univariate tests and linear mixed models to behavioral data collected by aerial observation of bowheads in the Beaufort Sea from 1980 to 2000. Durations of surfacings decreased upon exposure to seismic operations, especially for traveling or socializing non-calf whales. The mixed models also indicated that dive durations were affected by the presence of seismic operations, but the effects depended on other variables such as season and whale activity. Overall, our results suggest that changes in the behavior exhibited by bowhead whales exposed to seismic operations are context-dependent (i.e. responses to seismic operations depend on both the circumstance and activity of the whale). The level of perceived threat may also be important based on similarities with behavioral changes observed in other air-breathing aquatic foragers facing dangers. We conclude that seismic-induced changes in bowhead SRD behaviors may affect the availability of bowhead whales for visual detection in some circumstances. This in turn means that estimates of abundance and distribution of bowhead whales near seismic surveys should be context-sensitive and incorporate correction factors that account for sound exposure, season, reproductive status, and whale activity.

keywords     Bowhead whale, Behavior, Disturbance, Seismic operations,Beaufort Sea,Aerial surveys, Sightability
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Resting metabolic rate of a mature male Beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas).
Rosen, D.A.S. and A.W. Trites. 2013.
Aquatic Mammals 39:85-88.
abstract
We conducted repeated measurements of rates of oxygen consumption on a mature (~17 yrs) male beluga whale held at the Vancouver Aquarium, and trained to rest quietly at the surface of his holding pool underneath a specially designed floating dome that completely contained the portion of his body above the water line. Each trial lasted ~20 minutes prior to the morning feed, and rates of oxygen consumption were calculated over the last 10 minutes of each trial. The average metabolic rate over 11 trials was 73,050 ± 2290 kJ d-1 (Mean ± S.E.). This translated into approximately 54.48 ± 1.71 kJ kg-1 d-1, which was approximately 1.13 ± .035 times the predicted value for a similarly-sized terrestrial mammal. This was statistically greater than 1.0, but did not approach the much higher values reported for many other small cetacean species.
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2012
 
Distribution and relative abundance of humpback whales in relation to environmental variables in coastal British Columbia and adjacent waters.
Dalla Rosa, L., J.K. Ford and A.W. Trites. 2012.
Continental Shelf Research 36:89-104.
abstract
Humpback whales are common in feeding areas off British Columbia (BC) from spring to fall, and are widely distributed along the coast. Climate change and the increase in population size of North Pacific humpback whales may lead to increased anthropogenic impact and require a better understanding of species-habitat relationships. We investigated the distribution and relative abundance of humpback whales in relation to environmental variables and processes in BC waters using GIS and generalized additive models (GAMs). Six non-systematic cetacean surveys were conducted between 2004 and 2006. Whale encounter rates and environmental variables (oceanographic and remote sensing data) were recorded along transects divided into 4 km segments. A combined 3-year model and individual year models (two surveys each) were fitted with the mgcv R package. Model selection was based primarily on GCV scores. The explained deviance of our models ranged from 39% for the 3-year model to 76% for the 2004 model. Humpback whales were strongly associated with latitude and bathymetric features, including depth, slope and distance to the 100-m isobath. Distance to sea-surface-temperature fronts and salinity (climatology) were also constantly selected by the models. The shapes of smooth functions estimated for variables based on chlorophyll concentration or net primary productivity with different temporal resolutions and time lags were not consistent, even though higher numbers of whales seemed to be associated with higher primary productivity for some models. These and other selected explanatory variables may reflect areas of higher biological productivity that favor top predators. Our study confirms the presence of at least three important regions for humpback whales along the BC coast: south Dixon Entrance, middle and southwestern Hecate Strait, and the area between La Perouse Bank and the southern edge of Juan de Fuca Canyon.
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Growth and rapid early development of North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis).
Fortune, S.M.E., A.W. Trites, W.L. Perryman, M.J. Moore, H.M. Pettis and M.S. Lynn. 2012.
Journal of Mammalogy 93:1342-1354.
abstract
Body growth of North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) was described from measurements of known- age live and dead individuals to gain insights into the nutritional needs and life-history strategies of this endangered species. Body lengths from 154 individuals revealed that calves more than doubled in size and attained three-fourths of asymptotic adult size by the time they had weaned at 12 months. Calves gained on average ~1.7 cm and ~34 kg per day while nursing during this extremely rapid growth phase. Mean predicted lengths and weights were 4.2 m and 1.1 metric tons (mt) at birth, 10.3 m and 13.5 mt at weaning, and 13.6 m and 29.6 mt when fully grown. Growth of right whales was best described using a 2-phased Gompertz growth model and could not be fit using any of the single continuous growth models commonly used for other mammals. Rapid growth during dependency may minimize the risk of predation and maximize calf survival. Rapid calf growth also may maximize development of the mouth and baleen to optimize foraging efficiency of juveniles at the time of weaning, as well as improve reproductive fitness by reducing the age at which sexual maturity is attained. However, transferring the amount of energy needed to support the rapid postnatal growth of North Atlantic right whales may ultimately affect the intervals between pregnancies (.3 years) of mature females.

keywords     Eubalaena glacialis, growth models, length, mass, reproductive costs, right whale
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Mechanical reliability of devices subdermally implanted into the young of long lived and endangered wildlife.
Hori, B., R.J. Petrell, G. Fernlund and A.W. Trites. 2012.
Journal of Materials Engineering and Performance. 21:1924-1931.
abstract
Service data does not exist for the strength of enclosures for subdermally implanted biotelemetry devices intended for young wild animals. Developing adequate tests especially for implants intended for endangered species is difficult due to the very limited availability of live animals and cadaverous tissue, ethical concerns about using them, and high enclosure costs. In this research, these limitations were overcome by taking a conservative approach to design and testing. Reliability tests were developed and performed to establish the likelihood that a thin subdermally and cranially implanted alumina enclosure would fail due to typical external forces related to diving, fights, and falls over the expected 30-year life time of sea lions. Cyclic fatigue tests indicative of deep dives performed out of tissue and at the 90% reliability level indicated no failure after 70,000 stress cycles at stresses of approximately 15 MPa; dynamic fatigue tests indicated a 5% probability of failure at 250 MPa; and puncture tests indicative of fight bites showed a 5% probability of failure at 1500 N. These values were far outside of what the animals might expect to encounter in real life. On the other hand, the response of the enclosure to impact outside of the tissue was failure at a mean energy level of 6.7 J. Modeling results predict that head impacts due to trampling by fighting sea lion males and falls over 1 m onto a rocky ledge typical of haul out environments would likely fracture an infant‚s head as well as the implant. The device can be implanted under an impact absorbing 1 cm blubber layer for extra protection. More service data for enclosures can be made more available despite limited availability of test animals if a conservative approach to testing is taken.

keywords     alumina, biomaterials, biotelemetry, mechanical testing, Sea Lion, structural ceramics
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Rates of maximum food intake in young northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) and the seasonal effects of food intake on body growth.
Rosen, D., B.L. Young and A.W. Trites. 2012.
Canadian Journal of Zoology 90:61-91.
abstract
Accurate estimates of food intake and its subsequent affect on growth are required to understand the interaction between an animals‚ physiology and its biotic environment. We determined how food intake and growth of 6 young northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus L., 1758) responded seasonally to changes in food availability. Animals were given unrestricted access to prey for 8 hr per day on either consecutive days or on alternate days only. We found animals offered ad libitum food on consecutive days substantially increased their food intake over normal Œtraining‚ levels. However, animals that fasted on alternative days were unable to compensate by further increasing their levels of consumption on subsequent feeding days. Absolute levels of food intake were highly consistent during winter and summer trials (2.7 ˆ 2.9 kg d-1), but seasonal differences in body mass meant that fur seals consumed more food relative to their body mass in summer (~27%) than in winter (~20%). Despite significant increases in absolute food intake during both seasons, the fur seals did not appear to efficiently convert this additional energy into mass growth, particularly in the winter. These seasonal differences in conversion efficiencies and estimates of maximum intake rates can be used to generate physiologically realistic predictions about the effect of changes in food availability on an individual fur as well as the consequences for an entire population.
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Cost of living dictates what whales, dolphins and porpoises eat: the importance of prey quality on predator foraging strategies.
Spitz, J., A.W. Trites, V. Becquet, A. Brind'Amour, Y. Cherel, R. Galois and V. Ridoux. 2012.
PLoS ONE. Vol 7(11):e50096.
abstract
Understanding the mechanisms that drive prey selection is a major challenge in foraging ecology. Most studies of foraging strategies have focused on behavioural costs, and have generally failed to recognize that differences in the quality of prey may be as important to predators as the costs of acquisition. Here, we tested whether there is a relationship between the quality of diets (kJ g-1) consumed by cetaceans in the North Atlantic and their metabolic costs of living as estimated by indicators of muscle performance (mitochondrial density, n = 60, and lipid content, n = 37). We found that the cost of living of 11 cetacean species is tightly coupled with the quality of prey they consume. This relationship between diet quality and cost of living appears to be independent of phylogeny and body size, and runs counter to predictions that stem from the well-known scaling relationships between mass and metabolic rates. Our finding suggests that the quality of prey rather than th e sheer quantity of food is a major determinant of foraging strategies employed by predators to meet their specific energy requirements. This predator-specific dependence on food quality appears to reflect the evolution of ecological strategies at a species level, and has implications for risk assessment associated with the consequences of changing the quality and quantities of prey available to top predators in marine ecosystems.
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A review of the effects of different marking and tagging techniques on marine mammals.
Walker, K. A., A. W. Trites, M. Haulena and D. M. Weary. 2012.
Wildlife Research 59:15-30.
abstract
Wildlife research often requires marking and tagging animals to collect data on survival, reproduction, movement, behaviour and physiology. Identification of individual marine mammals can be carried out using tags, brands, paint, dye, photogrammetry, telemetry and other techniques. An analysis of peer-reviewed articles published from January 1980 to April 2011 addressing the effects of marking revealed a preponderance of studies focussed on short-term effects such as injuries and behavioural changes. Some marking techniques were reported to cause pain and to change swimming and haul-out behaviour, maternal attendance, and duration of foraging trips. However,marking has typically not been found to affect survival. No published research has addressed other possible long-term effects of marking related to injuries or pain responses. Studies of the more immediate effects of marking (mostly related to externally attached devices such as radio-transmitters) have shown a variety of different types and magnitudes of responses. It is important to note that studies failing to find treament differences are less likely to be published, meaning that the present and any other reviews based on published literaturemay be a biased sample of all research conducted on the topic. Publishing results that found no or low impacts (i.e. best practices) as well as those that found significant impacts on animals should both be encouraged. Future research under more controlled conditions is required to document acute effects of marking, including injury and pain, and to better understand longer-term effects on health, reproduction and survival. We recommend that studies using marked animals standardise their reports, with added detail on methodology, monitoring and sampling design, and address practices used to minimise the impact of marking on marine mammals.
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2011
 
An independent, scientific review of the Biological Opinion (2010) of the National Marine Fisheries Service Fisheries Management Plan for the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands management areas.
Bernard, D.R., S.J. Jeffries, G. Knapp, and A.W. Trites. 2011.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game Special Publication 11-16. pp. 136
abstract
This special publication contains the final report of an independent scientific and economic review of a Biological Opinion (BiOp) issued 24 November, 2010 by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) on the Fisheries Management Plan (FMP) for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) Management Area under a section 7 consultation required by the Endangered Species Act. The BiOp involved the western distinct population segment (WDPS) of Steller sea lions Eumetopias jubatus, the conclusion of which is a finding that fisheries in the western and central Aleutian Islands placed the WDPS in jeopardy of recovery through adverse modification of habitat. The review panel evaluated the scientific evidence and argument given in support of this finding against the scientific requirements of the Endangered Species Act based on consistency, validity, and biologic relevance. The review panel also evaluated the economic analyses that formed the basis for the reasonable and prudent actions arising from the finding. The review panel followed only the terms of reference as published in this final report, and in their deliberations, considered written testimony and testimony provided at two public meetings, one in Seattle on June 2, 2011, and the other in Anchorage on August 22, 2011. The conclusions of the review panel can be found in total in the executive summary and in part at the end of each chapter of the special publication.
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Proportion of prey consumed can be determined from faecal DNA using real-time PCR.
Bowles, E., P.M. Schulte, D.J. Tollit, B.E. Deagle and A.W. Trites. 2011.
Molecular Ecology Resources 11:530-540.
abstract
Reconstructing the diets of pinnipeds by visually identifying prey remains recovered in faecal samples is challenging because of differences in digestion and passage rates of hard parts. Analyzing the soft-matrix of faecal material using DNA-based techniques is an alternative means to identify prey species consumed, but published techniques are largely non-quantitative, which limits their usefulness for some studies. We further developed and validated a real-time PCR technique using species-specific mitochondrial DNA primers to quantify the proportion of prey in the diets of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus), a pinniped species thought to be facing significant diet related challenges in the North Pacific. We first demonstrated that the proportions of prey tissue DNA in mixtures of DNA isolated from four prey species could be estimated within a margin of ~12% of the percent in the mix. These prey species included herring Clupea palasii, eulachon Thaleichthyes pacificus, squid Loligo opalescens and rosethorn rockfish Sebastes helvomaculatus. We then applied real-time PCR to DNA extracted from faecal samples obtained from Steller sea lions in captivity that were fed 11 different combinations of herring, eulachon, squid and Pacific ocean perch rockfish (Sebastes alutus), ranging from 7-75% contributions per meal (by wet weight). The difference between the average percentage estimated by real-time PCR and the percentage of prey consumed was generally less than 12% for all diets fed. Our findings indicate that real-time PCR of faecal DNA can detect the approximate relative quantity of prey consumed for complex diets and prey species, including cephalopods and fish.
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Predation on Fraser River sockeye salmon.
Christensen, V. and A.W. Trites. 2011.
In Cohen Commission Technical Report. www.cohencommission.ca. Vancouver, B.C. pp. 129
abstract
A review of the available scientific literature reveals a wide range of species holding the remains of sockeye salmon in their stomachs, but only a few of these predators have specialized in targeting sockeye, and there are no studies showing that a predator has consumed sufficient numbers over the past three decades to pose a population threat to sockeye salmon. There is no sign of a smoking gun among the long list of potential predators of Fraser River sockeye salmon. In the open ocean, sockeye salmon appear to draw the predatory attention of salmon sharks, blue sharks, and an obscure species fittingly called daggertooth. All three species likely increased in recent decades (after the 1992 UN ban on driftnet fisheries) ˜ and two of them (salmon sharks and daggertooth) may favor sockeye. Unfortunately, data for these species is also too sparse to draw conclusions about their otential role in the poor return of Fraser River sockeye in 2009, but their life histories suggest relatively stable numbers that should not have exerted greater predation upon sockeye in any single year relative to others. In addition to the daggertooth and sharks, marine mammals also consume adult sockeye salmon. However, sockeye are not an important part of marine mammal diets compared to the other species of salmon. No studies have reported marine mammals consuming sockeye salmon in the open ocean. However, small amounts of sockeye have been found in the stomachs or fecal samples collected from Steller sea lions, northern fur seals, harbour seals, killer whales, and white-sided dolphins feeding over the continental shelf and inside waters of British Columbia. Seal and sea lion populations have increased significantly in British Columbia and southeast Alaska since the late 1970s. However, the available data indicate that sockeye salmon is not a preferred prey species among marine mammals.
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Convergent evolution in locomotory patterns of flying and swimming animals.
Gleiss, A.C., S.J. Jorgensen, N. Liebsch, J.E. Sala, B. Norman, G.C. Hays, F. Quintana, E. Grundy, C. Campagna, A.W. Trites, B.A. Block and R.P. Wilson. 2011.
Nature Communications Vol 2:352
abstract
Locomotion is one of the major energetic costs faced by animals and various strategies have evolved to reduce its cost. Birds use interspersed periods of flapping and gliding to reduce the mechanical requirements of level flight while undergoing cyclical changes in flight altitude, known as undulating flight. Here we equipped free-ranging marine vertebrates with accelerometers and demonstrate that gait patterns resembling undulating flight occur in four marine vertebrate species comprising sharks and pinnipeds. Both sharks and pinnipeds display intermittent gliding interspersed with powered locomotion. We suggest, that the convergent use of similar gait patterns by distinct groups of animals points to universal physical and physiological principles that operate beyond taxonomic limits and shape common solutions to increase energetic efficiency. Energetically expensive large-scale migrations performed by many vertebrates provide common selection pressure for efficient locomotion, with potential for the convergence of locomotory strategies by a wide variety of species.
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Cohort effects and spatial variation in age-specific survival of Steller sea lions from southeastern Alaska.
Hastings, K.K., L.A. Jemison, T.S Gelatt, J.L. Laake, G. Pendelton, J.C. King, A.W. Trites and K.W. Pitcher. 2011.
Ecosphere 2 Vol 111
abstract
Information concerning mechanistic processes underlying changes in vital rates and ultimately population growth rate is required to monitor impacts of environmental change on wildlife. We estimated age-specific survival and examined factors influencing survival for a threatened population of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in southeastern Alaska. We used mark-recapture models and data from 1,995 individuals marked at approximately one month of age at four of five rookeries in southeastern Alaska, and resighted from Oregon to the Bering Sea. Average annual survival probability for females was .64 for pups and 0.77 for yearlings, and increased from 0.91 to 0.96 from age 3ˆ7 yrs. Annual survival probability of males averaged 0.60 for pups and 0.88 by 7 yrs, resulting in probability of survival to age 7, 33% lower for males compared to females. Pups from northern southeastern Alaska (including an area of low summer population size but rapid growth) were twice as likely to survive to age 7 compared to pups from southern rookeries (including a large, historical, stable rookery). Effects of early conditions on future fitness were observed as (1) environmental conditions in the birth year equally affected first- and second year survival, and (2) effects of body mass at approximately one month of age were still apparent at 7 yrs. Survival from 0ˆ2 yrs varied among five cohorts by a maximum absolute difference of 0.12. We observed survival costs for long-distance dispersal for males, particularly as juveniles. However, survival was higher for non-pups that dispersed to northern southeastern Alaska, suggesting that moving to an area with greater productivity, greater safety, or lower population size may alleviate a poor start and provide a mechanism for spatial structure for sea lion populations.
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South American sea lions in Peru have a lek-like breeding system.
Soto, K.H. and A.W. Trites. 2011.
Marine Mammal Science 307:306-333.
abstract
Five years of behavioral observations revealed significant effects of high air temperatures and breeding site topography on the mating system of South American sea lions in Peru. Unlike most polygynous mammals that defend females or fixed territories, male sea lions in Peru maintained positions along the shoreline where females passed each day to thermoregulate, and where most copulations occurred. Sex ratios (1 male per 17 females) and male mating success were extremely skewed (14% of males achieved 50% of the copulations, and 25% of them did not copulate at all). The mass daily movements of females toward the water and cool substrate of the shoreline, along with a highly skewed sex ratio, accentuated the difficulty for males to monopolize and restrict female movements. Femalesmoved freely and chose their mates, unlike in temperate regions of their range where male South American sea lions control groups of females or access to tide pools. Our observations indicate that the South American sea lion in Peru has a lek-like breeding system. This is a rare alternative to the common male strategies of defending females and resources, and is likely an evolutionary product of their highly skewed sex ratio, protracted breeding season, and the extreme subtropical climate where they breed.
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Dive behaviour impacts the ability of heart rate to predict oxygen consumption in Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) foraging at depth.
Young, B. L., D. A. S. Rosen, A. G. Hindle, M. Haulena and A. W. Trites. 2011.
Journal of Experimental Biology 214:2267-2275.
abstract
The predictive relationship between heart rate (fH) and oxygen consumption (VO2) has been derived for several species of marine mammals swimming horizontally or diving in tanks to shallow depths. However, it is unclear how dive activity affects the fH:VO2 relationship and whether the existing equations apply to animals diving to deeper depths. We investigated these questions by simultaneously measuring the fH and VO2 of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) under different activity states (surface resting or diving), types of dives (single dives or dive bouts), and depths (10 or 40m). We examined the relationship over dives only and also over dive cycles (dive + surface interval). We found that fH could only predict VO2 over a complete single dive cycle or dive bout cycle (i.e. surface intervals had to be included). The predictive equation derived for sea lions resting on the surface did not differ from that for single dive cycles. However, the equation derived over dive bout cycles multiple dives + surface intervals) differed from those for single dive cycles or surface resting, with similar fH for multiple dive bout equations yielding higher predicted VO2 than that for single dive bout cycles (or resting). The fH:VO2 relationships were not significantly affected by dive duration, dive depth, water temperature or cumulative food consumed under the conditions tested. Ultimately, our results demonstrate that fH can be used to predict activity-specific metabolic rates of diving Steller sea lions, but only over complete dive cycles that include a post-dive surface recovery period.
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Environment and feeding change the ability of heart rate to predict metabolism in resting Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
Young, B. L., D.A.S. Rosen, M. Haulena, A. G. Hindle and A.W. Trites. 2011.
Journal of Comparative Physiology-B 118:105-116.
abstract
The ability to use heart rate (fh) to predict oxygen consumption rates (VO2) in Steller sea lions and other pinnipeds has been investigated in fasting animals. However, it is unknown whether established fh:VO2 relationships hold under more complex physiological situations, such as when animals are feeding or digesting. We assessed whether fh could accurately predict VO2 in trained Steller sea lions while fasting and after being fed. Using linear mixed-effects models, we derived unique equations to describe the fh:VO2 relationship for fasted sea lions resting on land and in water. Feeding did not significantly change the fh:VO2 relationship on land. However, Steller sea lions in water displayed a different fh:VO2 relationship after consuming a 4 kg meal compared to the fasting condition. Incorporating comparable published fh:VO2 data from Steller sea lions showed a distinct effect of feeding after a 6 kg meal. Ultimately, our study illustrated that both feeding and physical environment are statistically relevant when deriving VO2 from telemetered fh, but that only environment affects the practical ability to predict metabolism from fh. Updating current bioenergetic models with data gathered using these predictive fh:VO2 equations will yield more accurate estimates of metabolic rates of free-ranging Steller sea lions under a variety of physiological, behavioral, and environmental states.
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2010
 
Swimming depth and ocean currents affect transiting costs in Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
Hindle, A.G., D.A.S. Rosen and A.W. Trites. 2010.
Aquatic Biology 10:139-148.
abstract
Transit costs associated with commuting between resting sites ashore and foraging areas at sea are an appreciable portion of foraging expenditures in pinnipeds. We examined transit swimming in three Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) trained to follow a moving boat at different speeds and depths. We measured dive behavior (duration) and focused specifically on activity measures (fore-flipper stroking and ODBA, an overall measure of body motion), which may be proxies for metabolic expenditure. Sea lions appeared to increase efficiency while transiting at depths that approached three times their body diameters (mean depth = 151 ± 1 cm SEM, n = 87). Although the response was not uniform for all tested scenarios, all of the significant adjustments we observed to dive behavior and swimming mechanics supported an increased efficiency at this depth. An increase in transit speed (4.5 versus 3.5 knots surface speed) was associated with elevated flipper stroke frequencies (+5%) and stroke output (ODBA•stroke-1, +48%). Sea lions transiting against the flow of a tidal current had reduced dive durations (-10%), while total ODBA was consistently elevated (+8% overall). This response to tidal flow was accompanied either by elevated ODBA•stroke-1 (3.5 knots) or a parallel increase in stroking (4.5 knots). Our data demonstrate that small changes in the physical environment affect transiting in Steller sea lions, and imply that altered prey fields or changing ocean conditions can carry energetic consequences.
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Dive response differs between shallow- and deep-diving Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
Hindle, A.G., B.L. Young, D.A.S. Rosen, M. Haulena and A.W. Trites. 2010.
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 394:141-148.
abstract
Muscle exercise correlates with oxygen use, tissue perfusion and heart rate (fH) in terrestrial animals, but the relationship between these physiological processes is less clear in diving animals. We found the mean heart rate of Steller sea lions trained to voluntarily dive to depths up to 40m dropped by 40% while diving, and noted that mean bradycardia was 9% greater during shallow (10m) compared to deep (40m) dives. Longer dives resulted in lower heart rates, but only when they were shallow; on the other hand, minimum instantaneous fH decreased consistently with dive duration. In general, instantaneous fH did not reflect activity over short timescales. Our data suggest that our sea lions invoked a different dive response depending on whether they dove to shallow or deep depths. During shallow (10m) dives only, the correlation between activity and fH was indicative of vascular compromise between diving and exercise. However, during deep dives (40m), there was no such correlation, suggesting that locomotory activity was uncoupled from dive bradycardia, which was possibly mediated by an absence of blood flow to active muscle. For both diving scenarios, surface fH correlated with dive activity, suggesting that some underwater locomotory costs were deferred to the post-dive surface interval. Ultimately, our data support the speculation that Steller sea lion locomotory muscles become hypoxic during diving, regardless of dive depth.
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Fecal triiodothyronine and thyroxine concentrations change in response to thyroid stimulation in Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
Keech, A.L., D.A.S. Rosen, R.K. Nelson Booth, A.W. Trites and S.K. Wasser. 2010.
General and Comparative Endocrinology 166:180-185.
abstract
Variation in concentrations of thyroid hormones shed in feces may help to identify physiological states of animals, but the efficacy of the technique needs to be validated for each species. We determined whether a known physiological alteration to thyroid hormone production was reflected in hormone concentrations in the feces of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus). We quantified variation of triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) concentrations in feces following two intramuscular injections of thyrotropin (thyroid-stimulating hormone, TSH) at 24 h intervals in four captive female sea lions. We found fecal T3 concentrations increased 18-57% over concentrations measured in the baseline sample collected closest to the time of the first TSH injection (p=0.03) and 1-75% over the mean baseline concentration (p=0.12) for each animal of all samples collected prior to injections. The peak T3 response occurred 48 h post injection in three animals and 71 h in the fourth. Post-injection T4 concentrations did not differ between the baseline sample collected closest to the time of the first TSH injection (p=0.29) or the mean baseline concentration (p=0.23) for each animal. These results indicate that induced physiological alterations to circulating thyroid hormone concentrations can be adequately detected through analyses of fecal T3 concentrations and that the technique may provide a means of non-invasively detecting metabolic changes in Steller sea lions.
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Growth rates and differential investment in male and female Juan Fernández fur seal pups.
Osman, L.P., C.A. Moreno and A.W. Trites. 2010.
Journal of Mammalogy 91:1188-1196.
abstract
Male Juan Fernández fur seals (Arctocephalus philippii) are significantly larger than females at birth and show extreme dimorphism as adults. We investigated morphological differences among male and female pups using a cross-sectional sampling design to evaluate whether pup growth rates during the breeding season were sex-specific. We characterized growth rates using mass, length, and girth and found that length was the least variable measure of body growth (based on the coefficients of variation for the three measures of body size). Male pups were heavier on average than female pups on any given day of sampling but did not grow faster than females. No significant differences were noted in the body conditions of male and female pups. These findings suggest that the sexual differences among A. philippii pups originate before birth and are not accentuated while suckling during the breeding season.
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Prey capture attempts can be detected in Steller sea lions and other marine predators using accelerometers.
Viviant, M., A.W. Trites, D.A.S. Rosen, P. Monestiez and C. Guinet. 2010.
Polar Biology 33:713-719.
abstract
We attached accelerometers to the head and jaw of a Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) to determine whether feeding attempts in a controlled setting could be quantified by acceleration features characteristic of head and jaw movements. Most of the 19 experimental feeding events that occurred during the 51 dives recorded resulted in specific acceleration patterns that were clearly distinguishable from swimming accelerations. The differential acceleration between the head-mounted and jaw-mounted accelerometers detected 84% of prey captures on the vertical axis and 89% on the horizontal axis. However, the jaw-mounted accelerometer alone proved to be equally effective at detecting prey capture attempts. Acceleration along the horizontal (surge)-axis appeared to be particularly efficient in detecting prey captures, and suggests that a single accelerometer placed under the jaw of a pinniped is a promising and easily implemented means of recording prey capture attempts.
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2009
 
Lamination for subdermal implant fixation.
Hori, B.D., R.J. Petrell, A.W. Trites, and T. Godbey. 2009.
Journal of Biomedical Materials Research: Part B - Applied Biomaterials 91B:17-25.
abstract
hirty-six aluminum oxide laminated discs were implanted into 12 young rabbits (18 with a 0.5 mm porous layer and 18 with 1 mm) to determine whether implants that are porous only on one side could fixate to subcutaneous tissue. After 3 months, discs were encased within thin pouches (0.02-0.14 mm) of fibrous connective tissue, as would have been expected of a completely porous implant. Solid sides showed no while the porous sides showed little attachment to pouches. 47% (17) of the discs had moved 1.4±0.8 cm beyond the 4.7 + 1 cm they had moved due to normal skin growth, while two others had moved between 6.2 and 6.5 cm beyond this measure. The proportion of 1 mm porous layer discs migrating within subcutaneous tissue was no greater than the proportion of 0.5 mm layer discs migrating (p=0.15). Porous layer height and disc migration did not affect the attachment strength of pouch to surrounding tissues (68 ±23 N, p=0.34). Pouch thickness, which has been associated to the level of applied forces in other studies, increased with migration distance (p=0.054). Results indicate that one sided porous disks are likely easier to retrieve than completely porous ones, but cannot be prevented from migrating in loose tissue of young animals. Data is being used to design subdermal radio frequency devices for endangered marine animals.
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Changes in glucocorticoids, IGF-I and thyroid hormones as indicators of nutritional stress and subsequent refeeding in Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
Jeanniard du Dot, T., D.A.S. Rosen, J.P. Richmond, A.S. Kitaysky, S.A. Zinn and A.W Trites. 2009.
Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part A 152:524-534.
abstract
Physiological responses to changes in energy balance are tightly regulated by the endocrine system through glucocorticoids, IGF-I and thyroid hormones. Changes in these hormones were studied in eight captive female Steller sea lions that experienced changes in food intake, body mass, body composition, and blood metabolites during summer and winter. During a period of energy restriction, one group of sea lions was fed reduced amounts of Pacific herring and another was fed an isocaloric diet of walleye pollock, after which both groups returned to their pre-experimental diets of herring. Cortisol was negatively and IGF-I was positively associated with changes in body mass during periods of energy restriction (mass loss associated with increase in cortisol and decrease in IGF-I) and refeeding (body mass maintenance associated with stable hormone concentrations in summer and compensatory growth linked to decrease in cortisol and increase in IGF-I in winter). Cortisol and IGF-I were also correlated with changes in lipid and lean mass, respectively. Consequently, these two hormones likely make adequate biomarkers for nutritional stress in sea lions, and when combined provide indication of the energetic strategy (lipid vs lean mass catabolism) animals adopt to cope with changes in nutrient intake. Unlike type of diet fed to the sea lions, age of the animals also impacted hormonal responses, with younger animals showing more intense hormonal changes to nutritional stress. Thyroid hormones, however, were not linked to any physiological changes observed in this study.
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Energy reallocation during and after periods of nutritional stress in Steller sea lions: low-quality diet reduces capacity for physiological adjustments.
Jeanniard du Dot, T., D.A.S Rosen and A.W. Trites. 2009.
Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 89:516-530.
abstract
Two groups of female Steller sea lions (Groups H and P) were subjected to periods of energy restriction and subsequent re-feeding during winter and summer to determine changes in energy partition among principal physiological functions and the potential consequences to their fitness. Both sea lion groups consumed high-quality fish (herring) before and after the energy restrictions. During restrictions, Group H was fed a lower quantity of herring and Group P a caloric equivalent of low-quality fish (pollock). Quantitative estimates of maintenance and production energies and qualitative estimates of thermoregulation, activity and basal metabolic rate were measured. During summer, all animals compensated for the imposed energy deficit by releasing stored energy (production energy). Group H also optimized the energy allocation to seasonal conditions by increasing activity during summer when fish are naturally abundant (foraging effort) and by decreasing thermoregulation capacity when waters are warmer. During winter, both groups decreased the energy allocated to overall maintenance functions (basal metabolic rate, thermoregulation and activity together) in addition to releasing stored energy, but preserved thermoregulatory capacity. Group H also decreased activity levels in winter when foraging in the wild is less efficient, unlike Group P. Overall, sea lions fed pollock did not change energy allocation to suit environmental conditions as readily as those fed herring. This implies that low energy density diet may further reduce fitness of animals in the wild during periods of nutritional stress.
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Seasonal differences in biochemical adaptation to fasting in juvenile and subadult Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
Rea, L.D., M. Berman-Kowalewski, D.A.S. Rosen, and A. W.Trites. 2009.
Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 82:236-247.
abstract
Nine Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) aged 1.756 yr were experimentally fasted for 714 d during the breeding and nonbreeding seasons to identify changes in plasma metabolites that are indicative of fasting and to determine whether the ability of sea lions to fast varies seasonally or with age. Although some animals approached the limit of their protein-sparing ability by the end of our fasting experiments, there was no sign of irreversible starvation biochemistry. Plasma blood urea nitrogen (BUN) concentrations decreased in all animals within the first week of fasting, reflecting a shift to a fasting-adapted state; however, significant increases in plasma BUN concentration at the end of the nonbreeding season fasts suggest that subadult Steller sea lions were not able to maintain a protein-sparing metabolism for a full 14 d during the nonbreeding season. In contrast, juveniles were able to enter protein sparing sooner during the nonbreeding season when they had slightly higher initial percent total body lipid stores than during the breeding season. Subadult and juvenile sea lions had low circulating ketone body concentrations compared with young sea lion pups, suggesting an age-related difference in how body reserves are utilized during fasting or how the resulting metabolites are circulated and catabolized. Our data suggest that metabolite concentrations from a single blood sample cannot be used to accurately predict the duration of fast; however, threshold metabolite concentrations may still be useful for assessing whether periods of fasting in the wild are unusually long compared with those normally experienced.
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Steller sea lion foraging response to seasonal changes in prey availability.
Sigler, M.F., D.J. Tollit, J.J. Vollenweider, J.F. Thedinga, D.J. Csepp, J.N. Womble, M.A. Wong, M.J. Rehberg and A.W. Trites. 2009.
Marine Ecology Progress Series 388:243-261.
abstract
We hypothesized that: (1) Steller sea lion Eumetopias jubatus diet choice is a function of prey availability, (2) sea lions move to take advantage of times and locations of seasonal prey concentrations and (3) the number present depends on the amount of prey available (numerical response). Over 3 yr, typically on a quarterly basis, in Frederick Sound, SE Alaska, multiple measurements were taken of Steller sea lion abundance (aerial surveys), diet (scats), dive behavior (satellite telemetry)and prey availability and caloric density (nearshore, pelagic and demersal fish surveys). We found that Steller sea lions shifted diet composition in response to changes in prey availability of pollock Theragra chalcogramma, hake Merluccius productus, herring Clupea pallasi and salmon Oncorhynchus spp. They selected intermediate-sized fish and avoided small (<10 cm) and large (>60 cm) fish, and moved between areas as prey became available seasonally. The number of sea lions present depended on the amount of prey available; a standing biomass of 500 to 1700 t of prey in a nonbreeding area such as Frederick Sound, depending on species composition, can attract and sustain about 500 sea lions. Pollock was more frequent in sea lion diet in inside waters of SE Alaska including Frederick Sound, Stephens Passage and Lynn Canal than anywhere else in Alaska and contributed about one-third of the dietary energy in Frederick Sound. This finding implies that a diet with substantial year-round contributions from less nutritious, but abundant prey such as pollock can form part of a healthy diet as long as more nutritious prey such as herring, salmon or eulachon Thaleichthys pacificus also are consumed. Our study supports the conclusion that the Steller sea lion is an opportunistic marine predator with a flexible foraging strategy that selects abundant, accessible prey and shifts among seasonally available species.
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Fasting affects the surface and diving metabolic rates of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
Svärd, C., A. Fahlman, D.A.S. Rosen, R. Joy and A.W. and Trites. 2009.
Aquatic Biology 8:71-82.
abstract
Changes in metabolic rates were measured in 3 captive female Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) that experienced fasts during summer and winter. Metabolic rates were measured (via O2 consumption) before (MRs, surface) and after (DMR, dive + surface interval) the sea lions dove to 10–50 m depths. Measurements were obtained prior to 9-10 day fasts, and following a 14 day recovery period. The sea lions lost significantly more body mass (Mb) during the winter fast (10.6%), compared with the summer (9.5%). Mass-corrected dive metabolic rate (cDMR = DMR • Mb-0.714) was not affected by dive depth or duration, but increased significantly following the winter fasts (13.5 ± 8.1%), unlike the decrease during summer (-1.1 ± 3.2%). However, mass-corrected surface metabolic rate (cMRs) decreased significantly after both the summer (-16.4 ± 4.7%) and winter (-8.0 ± 9.0%) fasts. Consequently, the ratio between cDMR and cMRc was significantly higher in winter, suggestive of an increased thermal challenge and convective heat loss while diving. Increased cDMs following the fast indicated that digestion began during foraging and was not deferred, implying that access to ingested energy was of higher priority than optimizing diving ability. cDMR was elevated throughout the recovery period, independent of season, resulting in a 12% increase in foraging cost in winter and a 3% increase in summer. Our data suggest that Steller sea lions are more sensitive to changes in body condition due to food shortages in the winter compared with the summer.
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Development and application of DNA techniques for validating and improving pinniped diet estimates.
Tollit, D.J., A.D. Schulze, A.W. Trites, P.F. Olesiuk, S.J. Crockford, R.R. Ream T.S. Gelatt and K.M. Miller. 2009.
Ecological Applications 19:889-905.
abstract
Polymerase chain reaction techniques were developed and applied to identify DNA from >40 species of prey contained in fecal (scat) soft part matrix collected at terrestrial sites used by Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in British Columbia and the Eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska. Sixty percent more fish and cephalopod prey were identified by morphological analyses of hard parts compared with DNA analysis of soft parts (hard parts identified higher relative proportions of Ammodytes sp., Cottidae and certain Gadidae). DNA identified 213 prey occurrences of which 75 (35%) were undetected by hard parts (mainly Salmonidae, Pleuronectidae, Elasmobranchii and Cephalopoda), and thereby increased species occurrences by 22% overall and species richness in 44% of cases (when comparing 110 scats that amplified prey DNA). Prey composition was identical within only 20% of scats. Overall, diet composition derived from both identification techniques combined did not differ significantly from hard part identification alone, suggesting that past scat-based diet studies have not missed major dietary components. However, significant differences in relative diet contributions across scats (as identified using the two techniques separately) reflect passage rate differences between hard and soft digesta material and highlight certain hypothesized limitations in conventional morphological-based methods (e.g., differences in resistance to digestion, hard part regurgitation, partial and secondary prey consumption), as well as potential technical issues (e.g., resolution of primer efficiency and sensitivity, and scat subsampling protocols). DNA analysis of salmon occurrence (from scat soft part matrix and 238 archived salmon hard parts) provided species-level taxonomic resolution that could not be obtained by morphological identification, and showed that Steller sea lions were primarily consuming pink (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) and chum (Oncorhynchus keta) salmon. Notably, DNA from Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) that likely originated from a distant fish farm was also detected in two scats from one site in the Eastern Aleutian Islands. Overall, molecular techniques are valuable for identifying prey in the fecal remains of marine predators. Combining DNA and hard part identification will effectively alleviate certain predicted biases, and will ultimately enhance measures of diet richness, fisheries interactions (especially salmon related ones) and the ecological role of pinnipeds and other marine predators, to the benefit of marine wildlife conservationist and fisheries managers.
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2008
 
Metabolic costs of foraging and the management of O2 and CO2 stores in Steller sea lions.
Fahlman, A., Svärd, C., Rosen, D.A.S., Jones, D.R. and Trites, A.W. 2008.
Journal of Experimental Biology 211:3573-3580.
abstract
The metabolic costs of foraging and the management of O2 stores during breath-hold diving was investigated in three female Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) trained to dive between 10 and 50 m (n=1142 dives). Each trial consisted of 2 to 8 dives separated by surface intervals (SI) that were determined by the sea lion (spontaneous trials) or by the researcher (conditioned trials). During conditioned trials, SI was long enough for O2 to return to pre-dive levels between each dive. The metabolic cost of each dive event (DMR = dive + surface interval) was measured using flow-through respirometry. The respiratory exchange ratio (VCO2 ·VCO2 -1) was significantly lower during spontaneous trials compared with conditioned trials. DMR was significantly higher during spontaneous trials and decreased exponentially with dive duration. A similar decrease in DMR was not as evident during conditioned trials. DMR could not be accurately estimated from the SI following individual dives that had short surface intervals (SI < 50 sec), but could be estimated on a dive by dive basis for longer SIs (SI > 50 sec). DMR decreased by 15%, but did not differ significantly from surface metabolic rates (MRS) when dive duration increased from 1 to 7 min. Overall, these data suggest that DMR is almost the same as MRS, and that Steller sea lions incur an O2 debt during spontaneous diving that is not repaid until the end of the dive bout. This has important consequences in differentiating between the actual and ‘apparent’ metabolic rate during diving, and may explain some of the metabolic differences reported between pinniped species.
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Buoyancy does not affect diving metabolism during shallow dives in Steller sea lions Eumetopias jubatus.
Fahlman, A., G.D. Hastie, D.A.S. Rosen, Y. Naito and A.W. Trites. 2008.
Aquatic Biology 3:147-154.
abstract
hanges in buoyancy due to seasonal or abnormal changes in body composition are thought to significantly affect the energy budget of marine mammals through changes in diving costs. We assessed how changes in body composition might alter the foraging efficiency of Steller sea lions Eumetopias jubatus by artificially adjusting the buoyancy of trained individuals. PVC tubes were attached to harnesses worn by Steller sea lions that had been trained to feed at fixed depths (10 to 30 m) and to resurface inside a metabolic dome. Buoyancy was altered to simulate the naturally occurring differences in body composition reported in adult females (~12 to 26% subcutaneous fat). Diving characteristics (transit times and time at depth) and aerobic energy expenditure (gas exchange) were measured. We found that foraging cost decreased with the duration of the dive and increased with dive depth. However, changes in body composition did not affect the diving metabolic rate of Steller sea lions for dives between 10 and 30 m. We propose that Steller sea lions may adjust their diving lung volume to compensate for changes in buoyancy to avoid additional metabolic costs.
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Activity and diving metabolism correlate in Steller sea lion Eumetopias jubatus.
Fahlman, A., R. Wilson, C. Svärd, D.A.S. Rosen and A.W. Trites. 2008.
Aquatic Biology 2:75-84.
abstract
Three Steller sea lions Eumetopias jubatus were trained to participate in free-swimming, open-ocean experiments designed to determine if activity can be used to estimate the energetic cost of finding prey at depth. Sea lions were trained to dive to fixed depths of 10 to 50 m, and to re-surface inside a floating dome to measure energy expenditure via gas exchange. A 3-axis accelerometer was attached to the sea lions during foraging. Acceleration data were used to determine the overall dynamic body acceleration (ODBA), a proxy for activity. Results showed that ODBA correlated well with the diving metabolic rate (dive + surface interval) and that the variability in the relationship (r2 = 0.47, linear regression including Sea lion as a random factor) was similar to that reported for other studies that used heart rate to estimate metabolic rate for sea lions swimming underwater in a 2 m deep water channel. A multivariate analysis suggested that both ODBA and dive duration were important for predicting diving metabolic cost, but ODBA alone predicted foraging cost to within 7% between animals. Consequently,collecting 3-dimensional acceleration data is a simple technique to estimate field metabolic rate of wild Steller sea lions and other diving mammals and birds.
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A novel presence-only validation technique for improved Steller sea lion Eumetopias jubatus critical habitat descriptions.
Gregr, E.J. and A.W. Trites. 2008.
Marine Ecology Progress Series 365:247-261.
abstract
We used published information about foraging behaviour, terrestrial resting sites, bathymetry, and seasonal ocean climate to develop hypotheses relating life history traits and physical variables to the at-sea habitat of a wide-ranging marine predator, the Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus). We used the hypotheses to develop a series of habitat models that predicted the probability of sea lions occurring within 3 x 3 km2 grids overlaid on the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea; and compared these deductive model predictions with opportunistic at-sea observations of sea lions (presence-only data) using 1) a likelihood approach in a small area where effort was assumed to be uniformly distributed, and 2) an adjusted skewness (Skadj) test that evaluated the distribution of the predicted values associated with true presence observations. We found the Skadj statistic was comparable to the likelihood test when using pseudo-absence data, but it was more powerful for assessing the relative performance of the different predictive spatial models. We also found that the habitat maps we produced for adult female sea lions using the deductive modelling approach captured a higher proportion of presence observations than the current habitat model (Critical Habitat) used by fisheries managers since 1993 to manage Steller sea lions. Such improved predictions of habitat are necessary to effectively design, implement, and evaluate fishery mitigation measures. The deductive approach we propose is suitable for modelling the habitat use of other age- and sex- classes, and for integrating these age/sex class specific models into a revised definition of Critical Habitat for Steller sea lions. It can also be readily used to identify the at-sea habitat of other central place foragers.
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Steller sea lions show diet-dependent changes in body composition during nutritional stress and recover more easily from mass loss in winter than in summer.
Jeanniard du Dot, T., Rosen, D. A. S. , Trites, A. W. 2008.
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 367(1):1-10.
abstract
Controlled feeding experiments were undertaken with captive Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) to assess seasonal (winter vs. summer) physiological responses of individual animals to reduced quantities and qualities of food that are hypothesised to occur in the wild. Eight animals were randomly divided into two experimental groups fed isocaloric diets: Group H ate Pacific herring (Clupea pallasi) throughout the experiment while Group P was switched to walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) during a 28-day food restriction (after a 28-day baseline) and back to herring during a 28-day controlled re-feeding. Diet type did not impact the rates of body mass lost when food was restricted, but did influence the type of internal energy reserve (protein vs lipids) the sea lions predominantly used. In both summer and winter, Group H lost significantly more lipids and less lean mass than Group P that was fed pollock during the restriction phase. The response of Group H was consistent with the predicted pattern of nutritional stress physiology (i.e. protein sparing and utilization of lipid reserves). Group P lost a surprisingly high proportion of body protein while consuming restricted levels of pollock, which could lead to muscle impairment and vital organ failure on a long-term basis. When given increased amounts of herring during the controlled re-feeding phase, the capacity of both groups to compensate for the previous mass loss was found to depend on season and was independent of previous diet. All of the sea lions increased their rates of mass gain and returned to their pre-experimental weight during winter, but not during summer. Some intrinsic energetic plasticity related to seasonal adaptation to the environment may render winter an easier period than summer to recover from nutritional stress.
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A 4500-year time series of Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus) size and abundance: archaeology, regime shifts, and sustainable fisheries.
Maschner, H. D. G., M. W. Betts, K. L. Reedy-Maschner and A. W. Trites. 2008.
Fishery Bulletin 106:386-394.
abstract
4500-year archaeological record of Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus) bones from Sanak Island, Alaska, was used to assess the sustainability of the modern fishery and the effects of this fishery on the size of fish caught. Allometric reconstructions of cod length for eight prehistoric time periods indicated that the current size of the near shore, commercially fished cod stocks is statistically unchanged from that of fish caught during 4500 years of subsistence harvesting. This finding indicates that the current Pacific cod fishery that uses selective harvesting technologies is a sustainable commercial fishery. Variation in relative cod abundances provides further insights into the response to punctuated changes in ocean climate (regime shifts) and suggests that Pacific cod stocks can recover from major environmental perturbations. Such palaeofisheries data can extend the short time-series of fisheries data (<50 y) that form the basis for fisheries management in the Gulf of Alaska and place current trends within the context of centennial- or millennial-scale patterns.
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Diets of mature male and female Steller sea lions differ and cannot be used as proxies for each other.
Trites, A.W., and D.G. Calkins. 2008.
Aquatic Mammals 34:25-34.
abstract
Disturbance of otariid breeding sites (rookeries) to determine diet from fecal remains (scats) could be eliminated if the diets of males using adjoining bachelor haulouts could be used as a proxy for diets of breeding females. We collected scats from sexually mature Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) at one male resting site (haulout) and three female dominated breeding sites (rookeries) at Forrester Island, Southeast Alaska (June-July, 1994–1999) to test whether the diets of bachelor bulls differed from that of breeding females. Female diets were fairly evenly distributed between gadids, salmon and small oily fishes (forage fish), and contained lesser amounts of rockfish, flatfish, cephalopods and other fishes. Female diet did not differ significantly between the 3 rookeries, but did differ significantly from that of males. Males consumed significantly fewer salmon, and more pollock, flatfish and rockfish compared to females. The males also consumed larger pollock compared to females. These dietary differences may reflect a sex-specific difference in foraging areas or differences in hunting abilities related to the disparity in physical sizes of males and females. The similarity of the female diets between rookeries suggests that female diets can be determined from samples collected at a single site within a rookery complex. Unfortunately, summer diets of breeding females cannot be ascertained from hard parts contained in the scats of mature male Steller sea lions.
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2007
 
Quantification of terrestrial haul-out and rookery characteristics of Steller sea lions.
Ban, S. and A.W. Trites. 2007.
Marine Mammal Science 23:496-507.
abstract
Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus)are known to have occupied the same terrestrial haul-out and rookery sites across the North Pacific rim for centuries, but it is not known why they choose and stay at these locations, or what defines their preferred habitat. Classifying and comparing the shoreline type of haulouts and rookeries against sites not used by Steller sea lions showed that they preferentially locate their haulouts and rookeries on exposed rocky shorelines and wave-cut platforms. However, no preference was found for selecting rookeries on sheltered shore-types. Shoreline types used less frequently by sea lions included fine-to-medium-grained sand beaches, mixed sand and gravel beaches, gravel beaches, and sheltered rocky shores. Quantifying the shoreline types used by sea lions confirms anecdotal reports of habitat preferences and may prove useful in identifying and protecting sea lion terrestrial habitat, or in forecasting how climate change might affect the distribution of sea lions.
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Turning maneuvers in Steller sea lions (Eumatopias jubatus).
Cheneval, O., R. W. Blake, A. W. Trites and K. H. S. Chan. 2007.
Marine Mammal Science 23:94-109.
abstract
Steller sea lions are highly maneuverable marine mammals (expressed as minimum turning radius). Video recordings of turns (n=195) are analyzed from kinematic measurements for three captive animals. Speed-time plots of 180° turns have a typical ?V-shape?. The sea lions decelerated during the first half of the turn, reached a minimum speed in the middle of the curved trajectory and re-accelerated by adduction of the pectoral flippers. The initial deceleration was greater than that for passive gliding due to pectoral flipper braking and/or change in body contour from a stiff, straight streamlined form. Centripetal force and thrust were determined from the body acceleration. Most thrust was produced during the power phase of the pectoral flipper stroke cycle. Contrary to previous findings on otariids, little or no thrust was generated during initial abduction of the pectoral flippers and during the final drag-based paddling phase of the stroke cycle. Peak thrust force! at the center of gravity occurs halfway through the power phase while the centripetal force is maximal at the beginning of the power stroke. Performance is modulated by changes in the duration and intensity of movements without changing their sequence. Turning radius, maximum velocity, maximum acceleration and turning duration were 0.3 body lengths, 3.5 m/s, 5 m/s2 and 1.6 s respectively. The relative maneuverability based on velocity and length specific minimum turning radius is comparable to other otariids, superior to cetaceans but inferior to many fish.
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Reductions in oxygen consumption during dives and estimated submergence limitations of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
Hastie, G.D., D.A.S. Rosen and A.W. Trites. 2007.
Marine Mammal Science 23:272-286.
abstract
Accurate estimates of diving metabolic rate are central to assessing the energy needs of marine mammals. To circumvent some of the limitations inherent with conducting energy studies in both the wild and captivity, we measured diving oxygen consumption of two trained Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in the open ocean. The animals dived to predetermined depths (5–30 m) for controlled periods of time (50–200 s). Rates of oxygen consumption were measured using open-circuit respirometry before and after each dive. Mean resting rates of oxygen consumption prior to the dives were 1.34 (±0.18) and 1.95 (±0.19) liter/min for individual sea lions. Mean rates of oxygen consumption during the dives were 0.71 (±0.24) and 1.10 (±0.39) liter/min, respectively. Overall, rates of oxygen consumption during dives were significantly lower (45% and 41%) than the corresponding rates measured before dives. These results provide the first estimates of diving oxygen consumption rate for Steller sea lions and show that this species can exhibit a marked decrease in oxygen consumption relative to surface rates while submerged. This has important consequences in the evaluation of physiological limitations associated with diving such as dive duration and subsequent interpretations of diving behavior in the wild.
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Comparison of fatty acid profiles of spawning and non-spawning Pacific herring, Clupea harengus pallasi.
Huynh, M.D., D.D. Kitts, C. Hu and A.W. Trites. 2007.
Journal of Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part B 146:504-511.
abstract
Crude lipid and fatty acid composition from liver, intestine, roe, milt and flesh of spawning and non-spawning Pacific herring Clupea harengus pallasi were examined to determine the relative effects of spawning on the nutritional value of herring. Depletion of lipid due to spawning condition was significant (Pb0.01) in all organ tissues and flesh of spawning herring. The lipid content ranged from an average of 1.9 to 3.4% (wet weight basis) in different organ tissues of spawning herring, to 10.5 to 16% in non-spawning fish. The fatty acid profile exhibited many differences in the relative distribution of individual fatty acids among organ tissues and between the two fish groups. Oleic acid (C18:1n-9), a major monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) found in all tissue lipids, decreased significantly (Pb0.01) in spawning fish. The two monoenes, C20:1n-9 and C22:1n-11, occurred at high concentrations in the flesh but at only minor proportion in the digestive organs and gonads. Spawning herring also had significantly (Pb0.01) higher polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) content in the organ tissues, particularly in the milt and ovary, with docosahexaenoic acid (C22:6n-3, DHA) having the greatest proportion. Among the n-6 fatty acids, only C18:2n-6 and C20:4n-6 occurred at notable amounts and were present in higher proportions in spawning fish. We concluded that although relatively higher n-3 fatty acid content was found in the organ lipids of spawning herring, they are not an energy-dense prey food source due to the fact that both flesh and gonads contain a very low amount of lipid.
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Ecotypic variation and predatory behavior among killer whales (Orcinus orca) off the eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska.
Matkin, C., L.G. Barrett-Lennard, H.Yurk, D. Ellifrit, and A.W. Trites. 2007.
Fishery Bulletin 105:74-87.
abstract
From 2001 to 2004 in the eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska, killer whales (Orcinus orca) were encountered 250 times during 421 days of surveys that covered a total of 22,491 miles. Three killer whale lineages (resident, transient, and offshore) were identified acoustically and genetically. Resident killer whales were found 12 times more frequently than transient killer whales, while offshore killer whales were only encountered once. A minimum of 901 photographically-identified resident whales used the region during our study. A total of 165 mammal-eating transient killer whales were identified, with the majority (70%) encountered during spring (May and June). The diet of transient killer whales in spring was primarily gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus), while northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) were primary prey in summer. Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) did not appear to be a preferred prey or major prey item during spring and summer. The majority of killer whales in the eastern Aleutian Islands are the resident ecotype, which do not consume marine mammals.
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Utilization of stored energy reserves during fasting varies by age and season in Steller sea lions.
Rea, L.D., D.A.S. Rosen and A.W Trites. 2007.
Canadian Journal of Zoology 85:190-200.
abstract
Nine captive Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus (Schreber, 1776), 1.75–6 years of age) were fasted for 7–14 d to test the effect of short-term fasting on changes in body mass and body condition. Trials were repeated during both the summer breeding season and the nonbreeding season in seven animals to elucidate whether there was a seasonal component to the ability of Steller sea lions to adapt to limited food resources. Mean percent mass loss per day was higher during the breeding season in juveniles (1.8% ± 0.2%·d–1) than in subadults (1.2% ± 0.1%·d–1), but there were no significant age-related differences during the nonbreeding season (juveniles, 1.5% ± 0.3%·d–1; subadults, 1.7% ± 0.3%·d–1). A decrease in the rate of mass loss occurred after the first 3 d of fasting only in subadults during the breeding season. Percent total body lipid ranged from 11% to 28% of total body mass at the initiation of fasting trials. Animals with lower initial percent total body lipid exhibited higher subsequent rates of mass loss and a lower percentage of tissue catabolism derived from lipid reserves. There was no evidence of metabolic adaptation to fasting in juveniles, which suggests that juvenile sea lions would be more negatively impacted by food limitation during the breeding season than would subadults.
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Impact of diet index selection and the digestion of prey hard remains on determining the diet of the Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus).
Tollit, D.J., S.G. Heaslip, R.L. Barrick and A.W. Trites. 2007.
Canadian Journal of Zoology 85:1-15.
abstract
Abstract: Nine prey species (n = 7,431) were fed to four captive female Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus (Schreber, 1776)) in eleven feeding trials over 75 days to investigate the effectiveness of different methods used to determine diet from prey hard remains. Trials aimed to replicate short (1-2 day) and long feeding bouts and consisted of single species and mixed daily diets. Overall, an average of 25.2% ± 22.2% (mean ± SD, range 0-83%) of otoliths were recovered, but recovery rates varied by species (ANOVA, P = 0.01) and were linearly related to otolith robustness (R2 = 0.88). Squid beaks were recovered at higher frequencies (mean = 96%) than the otoliths of all species. Enumerating both non-otolith skeletal structures and otoliths (together termed ?bones?) increased species recovery rates by twofold on average (P < 0.001), with increases up to 2.5 times for herring and 3-4 times for salmonids. Using bones reduced inter-specific differences (P = 0.08), but recovery ! varied among sea lions. Bones were distributed over more scats per meal (mean = 2.9 scats, range = 0-5) than otoliths (mean = 1.9 scats, range = 0-4). In three different 15-day mixed diet trials, biomass reconstruction (BR) indices performed better than frequency of occurrence indices in predicting diet fed. Applying our experimentally derived numerical correction factors (to account for species differences in complete prey digestion) further improved BR estimates, resulting in all twelve unweighted comparisons within 5% (for otoliths) and 12% (for bones) of the actual diet fed.
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Bottom-up forcing and the decline of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in Alaska: assessing the ocean climate hypothesis.
Trites, A. W., A. J. Miller, H. D. G. Maschner, M. A. Alexander, S. J. Bograd, J. A. Calder, A. Capotondi, K. O. Coyle, E. D. Lorenzo, B. P. Finney, E. J. Gregr, C. E. Grosch, S. R. Hare, G. L. Hunt, J. Jahncke, N. B. Kachel, H.-J. Kim, C. Ladd, N. J. Mantua, C. Marzban, W. Maslowski, R. Mendelssohn, D. J. Neilson, S. R. Okkonen, J. E. Overland, K. L. Reedy-Maschner, T. C. Royer, F. B. Schwing, J. X. L. Wang and A. J. Winship. 2007.
Fisheries Oceanography 16:46-67.
abstract
Declines of Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) populations in the Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska could be a consequence of physical oceanographic changes associated with the 1976-77 climate regime shift. Changes in ocean climate are hypothesized to have affected the quantity, quality and accessibility of prey, which in turn may have affected the rates of birth and death of sea lions. Recent studies of the spatial and temporal variations in the ocean climate system of the North Pacific support this hypothesis. Ocean climate changes appear to have created adaptive opportunities for various species that are preyed upon by Steller sea lions at mid-trophic levels. The east-west asymmetry of the oceanic response to climate forcing after 1976-77 is consistent with both the temporal aspect (populations decreased after the late 1970's) and the spatial aspect of the decline (western, but not eastern, sea lion populations decreased). These broad-scale climate variations appear to be modulated by regionally sensitive biogeographic structures along the Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska, which include a transition point from coastal to open-ocean conditions at Samalga Pass westward along the Aleutian Islands. These transition points delineate distinct clusterings of different combinations of prey species, which are in turn correlated with differential population sizes and trajectories of Steller sea lions. Archaeological records spanning 4000 years further indicate that sea lion populations have experienced major shifts in abundance in the past. Shifts in ocean climate are the most parsimonious underlying explanation for the broad suite of ecosystem changes that have been observed in the North Pacific Ocean in recent decades.
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Killer whales, whaling and sequential megafaunal collapse in the North Pacific: a comparative analysis of the dynamics of marine mammals in Alaska and British Columbia following commercial whaling.
Trites, A. W., V. B. Deecke, E. J. Gregr, J. K. B. Ford, and P. F. Olesiuk. 2007.
Marine Mammal Science 23:751-765.
abstract
The hypothesis that commercial whaling caused a sequential megafaunal collapse in the North Pacific Ocean by forcing killer whales to eat progressively smaller species of marine mammals is not supported by what is known about the biology of large whales, the ecology of killer whales and the patterns of ecosystem change that took place in Alaska, British Columbia, and elsewhere in the world following whaling. A comparative analysis shows that populations of seals, sea lions and sea otters increased in British Columbia following commercial whaling, unlike the declines noted in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands. The declines of seals and sea lions that began in western Alaska around 1977 were mirrored by increases in numbers of these species in British Columbia. A more likely explanation is the seal and sea lion declines and other ecosystem changes in Alaska stems from a major oceanic regime shift that occurred in 1977. Killer whales are unquestionably a significant predator of seals, sea lions and sea otters but not because of commercial whaling.
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Diets of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in Southeast Alaska from 1993-1999.
Trites, A.W., D.G Calkins and A.J. Winship. 2007.
Fishery Bulletin 105:234-248.
abstract
Diet of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) was determined from 1494 scats (feces) collected at breeding (rookeries) and non-breeding (haulout) sites in Southeast Alaska from 1993 to 1999. The most common prey of 61 species identified were walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma), Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii), Pacific sand lance (Ammodytes hexapterus), Pacific salmon (Salmonidae), arrowtooth flounder (Atheresthes stomias), rockfish (Sebastes spp.), skates (Rajidae), and cephalopods (squid and octopus). Sea lion diets at the three Southeast Alaska rookeries differed significantly from one another. Steller sea lions consumed the most diverse range of prey categories during summer, and the least diverse during fall. Diet was more diverse in Southeast Alaska during the 1990s than in any other region of Alaska (Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands). Dietary differences between increasing and declining populations of sea lions in Alaska correlate with rates of population change, and add credence to the view that diet may have played a role in the decline of sea lions in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands.
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2006
 
Relationship between Steller sea lion diets and fish distributions in the eastern North Pacific.
Bredesen, E.L., A.P. Coombs, and A.W. Trites. 2006.
In A.W. Trites, S. Atkinson, D.P. DeMaster, L.W. Fritz, T.S. Gelatt, L.D. Rea and K. Wynne (eds), Sea Lions of the World. Alaska Sea Grant College Program, University of Alaska, Fairbanks. pp. 131-139.
abstract
Distributions of fish species were compared with diet information for Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) to assess the level of correspondence between potential prey availability and sea lion feeding habits. Fish distributions were compiled as part of the Sea Around Us Project at the UBC Fisheries Centre, and were based on published distributions and habitat preferences (e.g., latitude, depth). Sea lion scat samples were collected during the 1990s from seven geographic regions from Oregon to the western and central Aleutian Islands. The frequencies of occurrence of four prevalent species (walleye pollock, Theragra chalcogramma ; Pacific herring, Clupea pallasii ; Pacific cod, Gadus macrocephalus ; and North Pacific hake, Merluccius productus ) in the Steller sea lion diet were compared to their distributions in the North Pacific Ocean. The data suggest that Steller sea lion diets broadly reflect the distributions of these major prey species. However, some of the fish species that were regionally predicted to be present in high abundance were not proportionally reflected in the Steller sea lion diet, suggesting that other factors in addition to fish abundance influence their diets.
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The Sequential Megafaunal Collapse Hypothesis: Testing with Existing Data.
DeMaster, D.P., A.W. Trites, P. Clapham, S. Mizroch, P. Wade, R.J. Small, and J. Ver Hoef. 2006.
Progress in Oceanography 68:329-342.
abstract
Springer et al. [Springer, A.M., Estes, J.A., van Vliet, G.B., Williams, T.M., Doak, D.F., Danner, E.M., Forney, K.A., Pfister, B., 2003. Sequential megafaunal collapse in the North Pacific Ocean: an ongoing legacy of industrial whaling? Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 100 (21), 12,223–12,228] hypothesized that great whales were an important prey resource for killer whales, and that the removal of fin and sperm whales by commercial whaling in the region of the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands (BSAI) in the late 1960s and 1970s led to cascading trophic interactions that caused the sequential decline of populations of harbor seal, northern fur seal, Steller sea lion and northern sea otter. This hypothesis, referred to as the Sequential Megafaunal Collapse (SMC), has stirred considerable interest because of its implication for ecosystem-based management. The SMC has the following assumptions: (1) fin whales and sperm whales were important as prey species in the Bering Sea; (2) the biomass of all large whale species (i.e., North Pacific right, fin, humpback, gray, sperm, minke and bowhead whales) was in decline in the Bering Sea in the 1960s and early 1970s; and (3) pinniped declines in the 1970s and 1980s were sequential. We concluded that the available data are not consistent with the first two assumptions of the SMC. Statistical tests of the timing of the declines do not support the assumption that pinniped declines were sequential. We propose two alternative hypotheses for the declines that are more consistent with the available data. While it is plausible, from energetic arguments, for predation by killer whales to have been an important factor in the declines of one or more of the three populations of pinnipeds and the sea otter population in the BSAI region over the last 30 years, we hypothesize that the declines in pinniped populations in the BSAI can best be understood by invoking a multiple factor hypothesis that includes both bottom–up forcing (as indicated by evidence of nutritional stress in the western Steller sea lion population) and top–down forcing (e.g., predation by killer whales, mortality incidental to commercial fishing, directed harvests). Our second hypothesis is a modification of the top–down forcing mechanism (i.e., killer whale predation on one or more of the pinniped populations and the sea otter population is mediated via the recovery of the eastern North Pacific population of the gray whale). We remain skeptical about the proposed link between commercial whaling on fin and sperm whales, which ended in the mid-1960s, and the observed decline of populations of northern fur seal, harbor seal, and Steller sea lion some 15 years later.
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Ecosystem models show combined effects of fishing, predation, competition, and ocean productivity on Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in Alaska.
Guénette, S., S.J.J. Heymans, V. Christensen, and A.W. Trites. 2006.
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 63:2495-2517.
abstract
Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) increased in the eastern portion of their range while declining in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands from the late 1970s to late 1990s. We constructed ecosystem models of the central and western Aleutians and of Southeast Alaska to simultaneously evaluate four hypotheses explaining sea lion dynamics: killer whale (Orcinus orca) predation, ocean productivity, fisheries, and competition with other species. Comparisons of model predictions to historical time series data indicate that all four factors likely contributed to the trends observed in sea lion numbers in both ecosystems. Changes in ocean productivity conveyed by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation influenced the abundance trajectory of several species. Fishing could have affected the ecosystem structure by influencing the abundance of Atka mackerel (Pleurogrammus monopterygius) in the Aleutians, and herring (Clupea pallasii) in Southeast Alaska. Halibut (Hypoglossus stenolepis) in the Aleutians and arrowtooth flounder (Reinhardtius stomias) in Southeast Alaska appear to impede sea lion population growth through competitive interactions. Predation by killer whales was important when sea lions were less abundant in the 1990s in the Aleutians and in the 1960s in Southeast Alaska, but appear to have little effect when sea lion numbers were high.
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Studying trained Steller sea lions in the open ocean.
Hastie, G, D.A.S. Rosen, and A.W. Trites. 2006.
In A.W. Trites, S. Atkinson, D.P. DeMaster, L.W. Fritz, T.S. Gelatt, L.D. Rea and K. Wynne (eds), Sea Lions of the World. Alaska Sea Grant College Program, University of Alaska, Fairbanks. pp. 193-204.
abstract
The costs associated with diving are a central component of a sea lions? energy budget. Accurate estimates of diving costs are needed to assess energetic and physiological constraints on foraging behavior, including the potential effects of changes in prey distribution or density. However, information on sea lion diving physiology is limited to relatively few species of pinnipeds, and there is currently no information for Steller sea lions. Information on diving energetics of pinnipeds has traditionally been gathered using either wild or captive animals. However, studies with wild animals are logistically challenging and are limited by the opportunistic nature of data collection, whilst studies in captivity have been constrained by the physical restrictions of the holding facility. To circumvent some of these limitations, we combined the best aspects of both techniques by conducting diving metabolism studies with trained Steller sea lions in an open ocean environment. Two captive-reared Steller sea lions were housed in a holding pen and transported by boat to a diving trial area. The animals were trained to dive to predetermined depths for controlled periods of time using an underwater light targeting system and a video system to monitor behavior. At the end of each dive the sea lions returned to a respirometry dome on the surface where oxygen consumption was measured to estimate diving metabolism. This paper describes the experimental setup used to evaluate diving metabolism, discusses the logistical challenges of the study and the advantages of using such an approach to carry out physiological experiments with sea lions, and provides preliminary data on the diving energetics of Steller sea lions.
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The influence of depth on a breath-hold diver: predicting the diving metabolism of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
Hastie, G.D, D.A.S. Rosen, A.W. Trites. 2006.
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 336:163-170.
abstract
Diving animals must endeavor to increase their dive depths and prolong the time they spend exploiting resources at depth. Results from captive and wild studies suggest that many diving animals extend their foraging bouts by decreasing their metabolisms while submerged. We measured metabolic rates of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) trained to dive to depth in the open ocean to investigate the relationships between diving behaviour and the energetic costs of diving. We also constructed a general linear model to predict the oxygen consumption of sea lions diving in the wild. The resultant model suggests that mean swimming distance and depth of dives significantly influence the oxygen consumption of diving Steller sea lions. The predictive power of the model was tested using a cross-validation approach, whereby models reconstructed using data from pairs of sea lions were found to accurately predict the oxygen consumption of the third diving animal. Predict! ed oxygen consumption during dives to depth ranged from 3.37 L min-1 at 10 meters, to 1.40 L min-1 at 300 meters over a standardized swimming distance of 600 meters. This equated to an estimated metabolic rate of 97.54 and 40.52 MJ day-1, and an estimated daily feeding requirement of 18.92 and 7.96 kg day-1 for dives between 10 and 300 meters, respectively. The model thereby provides information on the potential energetic consequences that alterations in foraging strategies due to changes in prey availability could have on wild populations of sea lions.
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Using simulations to evaluate reconstructions of sea lion diet from scat.
Joy, R., D.J. Tollit, J.L. Laake, and A.W. Trites. 2006.
In A.W. Trites, S. Atkinson, D.P. DeMaster, L.W. Fritz, T.S. Gelatt, L.D. Rea and K. Wynne (eds), Sea Lions of the World. Alaska Sea Grant College Program, University of Alaska, Fairbanks. pp. 205-222.
abstract
Models used to describe pinniped diet can provide very different composition estimates. Occurrence indices as well as biomass reconstruction models (which use estimates of the number and sizes of prey consumed) are commonly used and increasingly utilize a variety of fish hard remains (bones) found in scats. However, the importance of any single fish can be overestimated if its bones are deposited in a succession of scats assumed to be from different fish. Similarly, the importance of a species will be underestimated relative to other species if the bones of one species are more fragile and are completely digested or if bones from different fish of the same species are contained in a single scat and assumed to be from a single fish. Species differences in the proportion of fish bones that survive digestion can be assessed from captive feeding studies where the number and species of prey consumed is known. Numerical correction factors can be calculated to take into account the levels of complete digestion. We performed computer simulations using data from captive feeding studies to investigate levels and sources of error in reconstructing simulated mixed species diets. Our simulations used different combinations of hard remains, were conducted both with and without the application of numerical correction factors, and compared four different diet indices (1. Modified frequency of occurrence, 2. Split sample frequency of occurrence, 3. Variable biomass reconstruction, 4. Fixed biomass reconstruction). Simulations indicated that levels of error were related to the MNI method of inferring fish numbers from prey remains, prey size, the number of identifiable prey structures used, and the robustness of the remains to digestive processes (recovery rate). The fewer fish fed, the higher the relative probability of counting the fish, particularly when a multiple element structure or all structure techniques are used. If recovery rates were assumed to be consistent across species, then large fish (particularly when fed in small amounts) were overestimated relative to smaller sized prey in all models, but particularly biomass reconstruction models and when using more than one paired structure. When recovery rates of a paired structure (otoliths) were varied across species (as observed in captive feeding studies) then biomass models tended to overestimate the species with high recovery rates. In contrast, frequency of occurrence models overestimated the contribution of smaller prey (particularly when fed in small amounts). Simulations also indicated correction factors can reduce levels of error in biomass reconstruction models, but cannot solve problems related to counting fish using MNI. Our work shows simulations can form a valuable component in assessing diet indices and the level (and direction) of associated errors in each.
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Mapping world-wide distributions of marine mammal species using a relative environmental suitability (RES) model.
Kaschner, K., R. Watson, A. W. Trites and D. Pauly. 2006.
Marine Ecology Progress Series 316:285-310.
abstract
The lack of comprehensive sighting data sets precludes the application of standard habitat suitability modeling approaches to predict distributions of the majority of marine mammal species on very large scales. As an alternative, we developed an ecological niche model to map global distributions of 115 cetacean and pinniped species living in the marine environment using more readily available expert knowledge about habitat usage. We started by assigning each species to broad-scale niche categories with respect to depth, sea-surface temperature, and ice edge association based on synopses of published information. Within a global information system framework and a global grid of 0.5° latitude/longitude cell dimensions, we then generated an index of the relative environmental suitability(RES) of each cell for a given species by relating known habitat usage to local environmental conditions. RES predictions closely matched published maximum ranges for most species, thu! s representing useful, more objective alternatives to existing sketched distributional outlines. In addition, raster-based predictions provided detailed information about heterogeneous patterns of potentially suitable habitat for species throughout their range. We tested RES model outputs for 11 species (northern fur seal, harbor porpoise, sperm whale, killer whale, hourglass dolphin, fin whale, humpback whale, blue whale, Antarctic minke, and dwarf minke whales) from a broad taxonomic and geographic range, using data from dedicated surveys. Observed encounter rates and species-specific predicted environmental suitability were significantly and positively correlated for all but 1 species. In comparison, encounter rates were correlated with <1% of 1000 simulated random data sets for all but 2 species. Mapping of large-scale marine mammal distributions using this environmental envelope model is helpful for evaluating current assumptions and knowledge about species? occurrence! s, especially for data-poor species. Moreover, RES modeling can help to focus research efforts on smaller geographic scales and usefully supplement other, statistical, habitat suitability models.
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A review of the potential effects of disturbance on sea lions: assessing response and recovery.
Kucey, L., and A.W. Trites. 2006.
In A.W. Trites, S. Atkinson, D.P. DeMaster, L.W. Fritz, T.S. Gelatt, L.D. Rea and K. Wynne (eds), Sea Lions of the World. Alaska Sea Grant College Program, University of Alaska, Fairbanks. pp. 581-589.
abstract
Human intrusion within areas of sea lion habitat is increasing worldwide, leading to concerns about disruption of distribution and daily activities of sea lions. Sea lion responses to disturbance can be quantified by recording changes in behavioural patterns, documenting numbers of animals on shore before, during and after the disturbance, or by measuring physiological stress of individual animals. However, assessing recovery is not so straightforward, as highlighted by an example from a study of the short-term effects of disturbance on Steller sea lions. Recovery is generally recognized as a return to an original state or normal condition, but is often operationally defined as a percent-return to pre-disturbance numbers or behaviours. Simple interpretation of disturbance effects can be easily confounded by concurrent natural seasonal changes in behaviours or haulout patterns, or by daily variability in numbers that can be attributed to weather, tidal cycle stage and other factors. Overall, a range of recovery criteria needs to be simultaneously applied when assessing the effects of human disturbance on sea lion populations. Insights gained from research on the effects of disturbance on Steller sea lions may help guide the development of studies undertaken on other species of sea lions.
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Body mass and composition responses to short-term low energy intake are seasonally dependent in Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
Kumagai, S., D.A.S Rosen and A.W. Trites. 2006.
Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology 179:589-598.
abstract
Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) were fed restricted iso-caloric amounts of Pacific herring (Clupea pallasi) or walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) for 8-9 days, four times over the course of a year to investigate effects of season and prey composition on sea lion physiology. At these levels, the sea lions lost body mass at a significantly higher rate during winter (1.6 ± 0.14 kg d-1), and at a lower rate during summer (1.2 ± 0.32 kg d-1). Decreases in body fat mass and standard metabolic rates during the trials were similar throughout the seasons and for both diet types. The majority of the body mass that was lost when eating pollock derived from decreases in lipid mass, while a greater proportion of the mass lost when eating herring derived from decreases in lean tissue, except in the summer when the pattern was reversed. Metabolic depression was not observed during all trials despite the constant loss of body mass. Our study supports the hypothesis that restricted energy intake may be more critical to Steller sea lions in the winter months, and that the type of prey consumed (e.g., herring or pollock) may have seasonally-specific effects on body mass and composition.
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Potential effects of short-term prey changes on sea lion physiology.
Rosen, D.A., D.J. Tollit, A.J. Winship, and A.W. Trites. 2006.
In A.W. Trites, S. Atkinson, D.P. DeMaster, L.W. Fritz, T.S. Gelatt, L.D. Rea and K. Wynne (eds), Sea Lions of the World. Alaska Sea Grant College Program, University of Alaska, Fairbanks. pp. 103-116.
abstract
hanges in the proximate composition of prey can result in a nutritional imbalance in individual animals, regardless of total energy intake. This mechanism has been hypothesized to have contributed to the decline of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus). Yet little is known about how otariids react physiologically to short-term changes in prey quality and availability. A series of studies with young captive Steller sea lions tested several potential links between prey quality and sea lion health. Body composition (fat to total mass ratio) of animals fed constant, maintenance-level, isocaloric diets of high- or low-lipid prey changed with season, but overall was not aff ected by prey composition. The sea lions appeared to prioritize maintaining core growth rates even when energy was limited, electing to deplete lipid reserves to fulfi ll energy defi cits, resulting in changes in relative body condition. In contrast, sea lions subject to short- term, sub-maintenance diets of high- or low-lipid prey utilized a greater portion of their lipid reserves when losing body mass on low lipid prey. Experiments with diff erent ad libitum feeding regimes indicated that sea lions are readily able to alter food intake levels to compensate for diff erences in prey energy content and, to a lesser degree, prey availability. However, the results also suggest that decreases in prey quality and/or foraging opportunities can readily combine to require food intake levels that are greater than the digestive capacity of the individual. This is particularly true for young animals that may already be living ?on the edge? energetically.
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Changes in diet and maternal attendance of a South American sea lions indicate changes in the marine environment and the abundance of prey.
Soto, K., A.W. Trites, and M. Arias-Schreiber. 2006.
Marine Ecology Progress Series 312:277-290.
abstract
Behavioural observations were made of South American sea lions Otaria flavescens in Peru to determine whether changes in their diet and maternal attendance patterns reflected physical changes in the marine environment and alterations in the abundance and distribution of prey. The study was conducted during the breeding season between 1998 and 2002, which was a period that encompassed a strong El Niño (1997–1998) and a moderate La Niña (1999–2001). Observations revealed strong linkages between maternal attendance patterns and the abundance of prey and oceanographic features close to the rookeries. Acute prey shortage during El Niño resulted in females increasing the length of their foraging trips and decreasing the time they spent onshore with their pups. In contrast, shorter times at sea and longer times onshore were observed during the favourable conditions of La Niña when preferred prey (anchovy and squat lobster) were more abundant near the rookeries. Pup mortalities increased when females spent more time at sea searching for prey and did not return frequently enough to nurse their pups. A larger diversity of prey species (particularly of demersal fishes) was consumed during El Niño when anchovy and lobster were less available. Females appeared to adjust their diets and maternal attendance patterns in response to annual changes in the abundance and distribution of prey. These observations suggested that diet and maternal responses reflect interannual fluctuations of the unpredictable Peruvian upwelling ecosystem, and implied that South American sea lions may be good indicators of relative changes in the distribution and abundance of marine resources.
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Estimating diet composition in sea lions: which technique to choose?
Tollit, D.J., S.G. Heaslip, B.E. Deagle, S.J. Iverson, R. Joy, D.A.S. Rosen and A.W. Trites. 2006.
In A.W. Trites, S. Atkinson, D.P. DeMaster, L.W. Fritz, T.S. Gelatt, L.D. Rea and K. Wynne (eds), Sea Lions of the World. Alaska Sea Grant College Program, University of Alaska, Fairbanks. pp. 293-307.
abstract
Accurate estimates of diets are vital to monitor impacts of sea lion populations on their ecosystems, their interactions with fisheries and to understand the role of food to animal nutrition and health. Approaches include using: (1) prey remnants in stomach contents, spews and scats, (2) prey DNA in scats (3) fatty acid signatures in blubber and (4) stable isotope ratios in predator's tissue. Each methodology has particular advantages and limitations, many of which can be assessed and improved through controlled captive feeding trials. Analysis of prey remnants from captive sea lion scats have shown significant variability in digestion between and within prey species, which coupled with preferential regurgitation and enumeration biases, can confound accurate diet quantification, but does not prevent spatial or temporal comparisons. Correction for partial digestion and use of additional structures besides otoliths can provide accurate prey size estimates. Prey DNA can be reliably isolated from soft remains in scats from captive sea lions and with further development this approach may allow quantification of diet. Genetic methods can be expensive and representative of only one to two days foraging (like prey remnant analysis), but may be less affected by differential digestion and can identify prey in scats that could not be identified through structural remnants. Validation of fatty acid signature analysis to quantify diet at longer temporal scales in sea lions is ongoing, but this new technique promises to be particularly useful to assess biases in traditional methods, identify the onset of weaning and to highlight what prey most contribute to lipid reserves. Stable isotope analysis of predator tissues gives only trophic level data, but can provide data on diet changes on many temporal scales. Remote video monitoring of foraging events and lavage/enema techniques can provide valuable diet information, but, like many newer techniques, animal capture is required. Ideally a suite of techniques should be used to study diet. While methods and correction factors developed for Steller sea lions can likely be applied to the other five sea lion species, they should be verified experimentally.
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Insights into the Timing of Weaning and the Attendance Patterns of Lactating Steller Sea Lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in Alaska During Winter, Spring and Summer.
Trites, A.W., B.P. Porter, V.B. Deecke, A.P. Coombs, M.L. Marcotte and D.A.S. Rosen. 2006.
Aquatic Mammals 32:85-97.
abstract
Behavioral observations of lactating Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) and their offspring were recorded at 4 haulout sites in Alaska to determine: 1) whether sea lions wean during winter while they are 7-9 months old, and 2) whether sea lions using sites in the Gulf of Alaska (the declining endangered population) made longer foraging trips than sea lions in Southeast Alaska (where the population appeared larger and healthier). Longer foraging trips are commonly thought to be an indicator of nutritional stress. Eight sets of behavioral observations were made using focal and scan sampling techniques at haulouts over 4 years (1995-1998) during 3 seasons (winter, spring and summer). Counter to expectations, we found no significant differences between haulout populations in the time that lactating Steller sea lions spent at sea or on shore. This suggests that sea lions did not have more difficulty capturing prey from winter through summer in the area of decline compared to where sea lion numbers increased. However, lactating Steller sea lions in both regions made longer foraging trips in winter than they did in spring and summer. These changes in foraging patterns between seasons were consistent among all years and sites. The proportion of time that immature Steller sea lions suckled declined through the spring to early summer, suggesting that sea lions began supplementing their milk diet with solid food in the spring. We did not observe any sea lions weaning during winter. Rather, most appeared to wean at the start of the breeding season when they were 1 or 2 y old. Sea lions observed in Southeast Alaska during the late 1990s while population growth was slowing suggest that most males weaned at 2 y, and that about 50% of females weaned at 1 y and the remainder at 2 y.
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Sea Lions of the World.
Trites, A.W., S. Atkinson, D.P. DeMaster, L.W. Fritz, T.S. Gelatt, L.D. Rea, and K. Wynne (eds). 2006.
Alaska Sea Grant Alaska College Program, University of Alaska, Fairbanks. 664 pages
abstract
The goal of the symposium was to bring together scientists and resource managers to address knowledge of world sea lion populations in order to compare them with Steller sea lions, and to identify research needs. managers to address knowledge of world sea lion populations in order to compare them with Steller sea lions, and to identify research needs.

Changes in the worldwide abundance of sea lions is of growing concern to fisheries and conservation groups, because fisheries are feared to threaten sea lions, and/or because sea lions are feared to threaten fisheries. Over the past few decades, major changes have been noted in the abundance of all five species of sea lions around the world. In the North Pacific, the Steller sea lion has been declared endangered in parts of its range and is considered threatened with extinction in others. This is in contrast to the rapid increase in populations of California sea lions in Mexico and California. Elsewhere, the Japanese subspecies of the California sea lion is probably extinct and the Galapagos subspecies is in low numbers. Numbers of New Zealand sea lions and Australian sea lions are also extremely low, with major declines recently reported in Australia. Relatively little is known about the South American sea lion.

This symposium brought the world community of sea lion researchers and policy makers together to share their experiences and knowledge with each other. Interspecies comparisons can shed light on why some populations might decline while others increase. Insights might also be gained on whether trends in the abundance of sea lions are related to fishing activities through food dependencies or more directly through control or conservation measures. A better understanding of the biology of sea lions is urgently needed. The symposium significantly contributed to the understanding of fluctuating sea lion populations, especially as they compare to the Steller sea lion, by synthesizing current knowledge and forging new directions.

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Effects of fisheries on ecosystems: just another top predator?
Trites, A.W., V. Christensen and D. Pauly. 2006.
In I.L. Boyd, K. Camphuysen and S. Wanless (eds), Top predators in marine ecosystems: their role in monitoring and management. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. pp. 11-27.
abstract
Apex predators such as pinnipeds, cetaceans, seabirds and sharks, are constrained by the sizes of prey they can consume and thus typically feed within a narrow range of trophic levels. Having co-evolved with their prey, they have influenced the behaviors, physiologies, morphologies and life history strategies of the species they target. In contrast, humans can consume prey of any size from all trophic levels using methods that can rapidly deplete populations. On an ecological time scale, fisheries, like apex predators, can directly affect the abundance of other species by consuming, or out-competing them; or they can indirectly affect the abundance of non-targeted species by removing other predators. However, there is growing evidence that the effects of fisheries go well beyond those imposed by apex predators. Theory and recent observations confirm that the continued development and expansion of fisheries over the past half century has led to a decrease in the! size and life spans of targeted species, with reproduction of fish occurring at earlier ages and at smaller sizes. Also, high levels of fishing have altered the makeup of many ecosystems, depressing the average trophic level of heavily fished ecosystems and speeding up the rate of nutrient turnover within them. An inevitable consequence of fishing down the food web is increased ecosystem instability, unsustainable fisheries and an inability for the ecosystem to support healthy abundant populations of apex predators.
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Food consumption by sea lions: existing data and techniques.
Winship, A.J., A.M.J. Hunter, D.A.S. Rosen, and A.W. Trites. 2006.
In A.W. Trites, S. Atkinson, D.P. DeMaster, L.W. Fritz, T.S. Gelatt, L.D. Rea and K. Wynne (eds), Sea Lions of the World. Alaska Sea Grant College Program, University of Alaska, Fairbanks. pp. 177-191.
abstract
Knowing the quantity of prey that sea lions consume is a prerequisite for assessing the role of sea lions in aquatic ecosystems and the potential for competition to occur with fisheries. We reviewed the different approaches that have been used to estimate the food requirements for the six species of sea lions. We reviewed data on the quantity of food consumed by sea lions in captivity, and examined how consumption varied by species, body size, and season. We also reviewed and quantified available information on the energetics of sea lions and assessed the potential application of these data to parameterize an existing bioenergetic model that was developed to estimate the food requirements of Steller sea lions. Our study provided ranges of estimates of food consumption for sea lions that can be used in various modeling strategies to assess the impact of sea lions on prey populations, including commercially exploited fish species. The approaches reviewed in our study shared common difficulties arising from the quantity and quality of data, and the integration of data across scales and species. Our modeling exercise, in particular, identified the major uncertainties involved in estimating the food requirements of each sea lion species using an energetics approach. Our results provide direction for future research aimed at improving the accuracy and comparability of estimates of food consumption for sea lions.
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Risk of extirpation of Steller sea lions in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands: a population viability analysis based on alternative hypotheses for why sea lions declined in western Alaska.
Winship, A.J., and A.W. Trites. 2006.
Marine Mammal Science 22(1):124-155.
abstract
We estimated the risk that the Steller sea lion will be extirpated in western Alaska using a population viability analysis (PVA) that combined simulations with statistically fitted models of historical population dynamics. Our analysis considered the roles that density-dependent and density-independent factors may have played in the past, and how they might influence future population dynamics. It also established functional relationships between population size, population growth rate and the risk of extinction under alternative hypotheses about population regulation and environmental variability. These functional relationships can be used to develop recovery criteria and guide research and management decisions. Life table parameters (e.g., birth and survival rates) operating during the population decline (1978?2002) were estimated by fitting simple age-structured models to time-series of pup and non-pup counts from 33 rookeries (subpopulations). The PVA was carried out by projecting all 33 subpopulations into the future using these estimated site-specific life tables (with associated uncertainties) and different assumptions about carrying capacities and the presence or absence of density-dependent population regulation. Results suggest that the overall predicted risk of extirpation of Stelsler sea lions as a species in western Alaska was low in the next 100 yr under all scenarios explored. However, most subpopulations of Steller sea lions had high probabilities of going extinct within the next 100 yr if trends observed during the 1990s were to continue. Two clusters of contiguous subpopulations occurring in the Unimak Pass area in the western Gulf of Alaska/eastern Aleutian Islands and the Seguam?Adak region in the central Aleutian Islands had relatively lower risks of extinction. Risks of extinction for a number of subpopulations in the Gulf of Alaska were reduced if the increases observed since the late 1990s continue into the fu ture. The risks of subpopulations going extinct were small whe n densit ydependent compensation in birth and survival rates were assumed, even when random stochasticity in these vital rates was introduced.
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2005
 
Infectious disease and the decline of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in Alaska: insights from serology data.
Burek, K.A., F.M.D. Gulland, G. Sheffield, K.B. Beckman, E. Keyes, T.R. Spraker, A.W. Smith, D.E. Skilling, J.E. Evermann, J.L. Stott, J.T. Saliki and A.W. Trites. 2005.
Journal of Wildlife Diseases 41(3):512-524.
abstract
Serology data were examined to determine whether infectious disease may have played a role in the decline of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands. Available published data, historical unpublished data, and recent collections (1997-2000) were compared and reviewed. Data was stratified by geography in order to compare the declining western Alaska population in the Aleutian Islands regions through eastern Prince William Sound to the increasing population in Southeast Alaska. Prevalences of antibodies from the 1970s to early 1990s were noted for Leptospira interrogans, Chlamydophila psittaci, Brucella spp., phocid herpesvirus 1, and canine parvovirus. Serum samples collected and analyzed from 1997?2000 were tested for antibodies to these agents as well as to caliciviruses, marine mammal morbilliviruses, and canine adenoviruses 1 and 2. Conclusions could not be drawn about changes in the prevalence of exposure to disease agents during the decline of Steller sea lions because data were not comparable either because of inconsistencies in test techniques, or because the samples were either not collected in all decades from all regions or were not tested for antibodies to the same disease agents in different decades. Despite these shortcomings, the available data contained no convincing evidence of significant exposure of Steller sea lions to morbilliviruses, B. spp., canine parvovirus or L. interrogans. Steller sea lions have been exposed to a phocid herpesvirus, caliciviruses, canine adenovirus, and C. psittaci or to cross reactive organisms in regions of both increasing and decreasing sea lion abundance. These disease agents are not likely to have been the primary cause of the decline because they are found at comparable levels in both the increasing and the decreasing populations. However they may have contributed to the decline or impeded recovery of the Steller sea lion population due to undetected mortality and morbidity, or reduction of fecundity and body condition in animals under other stresses. Systematic monitoring for disease agents and their effects is needed to determine whether infectious disease is currently playing a role in the decline and lack of recovery of Steller sea lions.
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Molecular scatology as a tool to study diet: analysis of prey DNA in scats from captive Steller sea lions.
Deagle, B.E., D.J. Tollit, S.N. Jarman, M.A. Hindell, A.W. Trites and N.J. Gales. 2005.
Molecular Ecology 14:1831-1842.
abstract
The DNA of prey present in animal scats may provide a valuable source of information for dietary studies. We conducted a captive feeding trial to test whether prey DNA could be reliably detected in scat samples from Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus). Two sea lions were fed a diet of fish (five species) and squid (one species), and DNA was extracted from the soft component of collected scats. Most of the DNA obtained came from the predator, but prey DNA could be amplified using prey-specific primers. The four prey species fed in consistent daily proportions throughout the trial were detected in more than 90% of the scat DNA extractions. Squid and sockeye salmon, which were fed as a relatively small percentage of the daily diet, were detected as reliably as the more abundant diet items. Prey detection was erratic in scats collected when the daily diet was fed in two meals that differed in prey composition, suggesting that prey DNA is passed in meal specific puls! es. Prey items that were removed from the diet following one day of feeding were only detected in scats collected within 48 hours of ingestion. Proportions of fish DNA present in eight scat samples (evaluated through the screening of clone libraries) was roughly proportional to the mass of prey items consumed, raising the possibility that DNA quantification methods could provide semi-quantitative diet composition data. This study should be of broad interest to researchers studying diet since it highlights an approach that can accurately identify prey species and is not dependent on prey hard parts surviving digestion.
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The dielectric properties of the cranial skin of five young captive Stellar sea sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) and a similar number of young domestic pigs (Sus scrofa) and sheep (Ovis aries) between 0.1 and 10 GHz.