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2017
 
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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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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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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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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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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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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Dive characteristics can predict foraging success in Australian fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus) as validated by animal-borne video.
Volpov, B.L.V., D.A.S. Rosen, A.J. Hoskins, H.J. Lourie, N. Dorville, A.M.M. Baylis, K.W. Wheatley, G. Marshall, K. Abernathy, J. Semmens, M.A. Hindell and J.P.Y. Arnould. 2016.
Biology Open 5:262-271.
abstract
Dive characteristics and dive shape are often used to infer foraging success in pinnipeds. However, these inferences have not been directly validated in the field with video, and it remains unclear if this method can be applied to benthic foraging animals. This study assessed the ability of dive characteristics from time-depth recorders (TDR) to predict attempted prey capture events (APC) that were directly observed on animal-borne video in Australian fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus, n=11). The most parsimonious model predicting the probability of a dive with ≥1 APC on video included only descent rate as a predictor variable. The majority (94%) of the 389 total APC were successful, and the majority of the dives (68%) contained at least one successful APC. The best model predicting these successful dives included descent rate as a predictor. Comparisons of the TDR model predictions to video yielded a maximum accuracy of 77.5% in classifying dives as either APC or non-APC or 77.1% in classifying dives as successful verses unsuccessful. Foraging intensity, measured as either total APC per dive or total successful APC per dive, was best predicted by bottom duration and ascent rate. The accuracy in predicting total APC per dive varied based on the number of APC per dive with maximum accuracy occurring at 1 APC for both total (54%) and only successful APC (52%). Results from this study linking verified foraging dives to dive characteristics potentially opens the door to decades of historical TDR datasets across several otariid species.

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

keywords     Cetaceans, circumtropical, conservation biogeography, density, extrapolation, generalized additive models, pelagic waters
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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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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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Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope trophic enrichment factors for Steller sea lion vibrissae relative to milk and fish/invertebrate diets.
Stricker, C.A., A.M. Christ, M.B. Wunder, A.C. Doll, S.D. Farley, L.D. Rea, D.A.S. Rosen, R.D. Scherer and D.J. Tollit. 2015.
Marine Ecology Progress Series. 523:255-266.
abstract
Nutritional constraints have been proposed as a contributor to population declines in the endangered Steller sea lion Eumetopias jubatus in some regions of the North Pacific. Isotopic analysis of vibrissae (whiskers) is a potentially useful approach to resolving the nutritional ecology of this species because long-term (up to 8 yr) dietary information is sequentially recorded and metabolically inert once formed. Additionally, vibrissae are grown in utero, potentially offering indirect inference on maternal diet. However, diet reconstruction using isotopic techniques requires a priori knowledge of trophic enrichment factors (TEFs), which can vary relative to diet quality and among animal species. In this study, we provide new TEF estimates for (1) maternal relative to pup vibrissae during both gestation and nursing and (2) adult vibrissae relative to a complex diet. Further, we refine vibrissa−milk TEFs based on an additional 76 animals with an age distribution ranging from 1 to 20 mo. Mother−pup vibrissae TEF values during gestation and nursing were near zero for δ13C and averaged 0.8 and 1.6‰, respectively, for δ15N. In contrast, vibrissa− fish/invertebrate TEFs averaged 3.3 (± 0.3 SD) and 3.7‰ (±0.3) for lipid-free δ13C and δ15N, respectively. Average lipid-free δ13C and δ15N vibrissa−milk TEFs were 2.5 (±0.9) and 1.8‰ (±0.8), respectively, and did not differ among metapopulations. Empirically determined TEFs are critical for accurate retrospective diet modeling, particularly for evaluating the hypothesis of nutritional deficiency contributing to the lack of Steller sea lion population recovery in some regions of Alaska.
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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
 
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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Spatial and social connectivity of fish-eating Resident killer whales (Orcinus orca) in the northern North Pacific.
Fearnbach, H., J.W. Durban, D.K. Ellifrit, J.M. Waite, C.O. Matkin, C.R. Lunsford, M.J. Peterson, J. Barlow and P.R. Wade. 2014.
Marine Biology 161:459-472.
abstract
The productive North Pacific waters of the Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea support a high density of fish-eating “Resident” type killer whales (Orcinus orca), which overlap in distribution with commercial fisheries, producing both direct and indirect interactions. To provide a spatial context for these interactions, we analyzed a 10-year dataset of 3,058 whale photo-identifications from 331 encounters within a large (linear ~4,000 km) coastal study area to investigate the ranging and social patterns of 532 individually identifiable whales photographed in more than one encounter. Although capable of large-scale movements (maximum 1,443 km), we documented ranges generally <200 km, with high site fidelity across summer sampling intervals and also re-sightings during a winter survey. Bayesian analysis of pair-wise associations identified four defined clusters, likely representing groupings of stable matrilines, with distinct ranging patterns, that combin ed to form a large network of associated whales that ranged across most of the study area. This provides evidence of structure within the Alaska stock of Resident killer whales, important for evaluating ecosystem and fisheries impacts. This network included whales known to depredate groundfish from longline fisheries, and we suggest that such large-scale connectivity has facilitated the spread of depredation.

keywords     killer whales, resident, North Pacific, Alaska
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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
 
PBDE flame retardants and PCBs in migrating Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in the Strait of Georgia, British Columbia, Canada.
Alava, J. J., D. Lambourn, P. Olesiuk, M. Lance, S. J. Jeffries, F. A. P. C. Gobas and P. S Ross. 2012.
Chemosphere 88:855-864.
abstract
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were measured in blubber biopsy samples from 22 live-captured Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) that had just entered the Strait of Georgia, British Columbia, Canada, for their overwintering feeding season. PPBDE ranged from 50 lg kg1 (lipid weight) in adult females to 3780 lg kg1 in subadult individuals. PPCBs ranged from 272 lg kg1 in adult females to 14280 lg kg1 in subadult individuals. While most PBDE and PCB congeners were transferred through milk to pups, PCBs with logKOW > 7.0 (PCBs 206, 207, 208 and 209) appeared constrained, resulting in a lighter mixture in pups compared to adult females. The ratio of individual PCB congeners by metabolic group (Groups I, II, III, IV and V) to PCB-153 regressed against length of males suggested poor biotransformation of these compounds (slopes did not differ from zero, p > 0.05). PBDE congeners 49, 99, 153 and 183 appeared bioaccumulative (slopes of ratio BDE/PCB 153 versus length were higher than zero, p < 0.05), but the dominance of the single congener, BDE-47 (64% of total PBDEs), likely due in part to debromination pathways, reduced our ability to explore congenerspecific dynamics of PBDEs in these pinnipeds. With 80% of our Steller sea lions exceeding a recent toxicity reference value for PCBs, the fasting-associated mobilization of these contaminants raises concerns about a heightened vulnerability to adverse effects during annual migrations.
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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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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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Predation on an upper trophic marine predator, the Steller sea lion: evaluating high juvenile mortality in a density dependent conceptual framework.
Horning, M. and J.-A.E. Mellish. 2012.
PLoS ONE. Vol 7(1):e30173
abstract
The endangered western stock of the Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) ˆ the largest of the eared seals ˆ has declined by 80% from population levels encountered four decades ago. Current overall trends from the Gulf of Alaska to the Aleutian Islands appear neutral with strong regional heterogeneities. A published inferential model has been used to hypothesize a continuous decline in natality and depressed juvenile survival during the height of the decline in the mid-late 1980‚s,followed by the recent recovery of juvenile survival to pre-decline rates. However, these hypotheses have not been tested by direct means, and causes underlying past and present population trajectories remain unresolved and controversial. We determined post-weaning juvenile survival and causes of mortality using data received post-mortem via satellite from telemetry transmitters implanted into 36 juvenile Steller sea lions from 2005 through 2011. Data show high post-weaning mortality by predation in the eastern Gulf of Alaska region. To evaluate the impact of such high levels of predation, we developed a conceptual framework to integrate density dependent with density independent effects on vital rates and population trajectories. Our data and model do not support the hypothesized recent recovery of juvenile survival rates and reduced natality. Instead, our data demonstrate continued low juvenile survival in the Prince William Sound and Kenai Fjords region of the Gulf of Alaska. Our results on contemporary predation rates combined with the density dependent conceptual framework suggest predation on juvenile sea lions as the largest impediment to recovery of the species in the eastern Gulf of Alaska region. The framework also highlights the necessity for demographic models based on age-structured census data to incorporate the differential impact of predation on multiple vital rates.
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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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Effect of phylogeny and prey type on fatty acid calibration coefficients in three species of pinnipeds - implications for the QFASA dietary quantification technique.
Rosen, D. A. S. and D.J. Tollit. 2012.
Marine Ecology Progress Series 467:263-276.
abstract
Quantitative fatty acid signature analysis (QFASA) has been proposed as a technique for determining the long-term diet of animals. The method compares the fatty acid (FA) profiles of predators and potential prey items to estimate relative prey intake. We tested the assumptions of a key step in QFASA, the correction of predator FA signatures for metabolic processes through sets of calibration coefficients (CCs). We conducted long-term controlled feeding studies with captive Steller sea lions consuming herring and eulachon and northern fur seals consuming herring. We compared the results with data from harbour seals eating herring to evaluate the effects of phylogeny and prey type on individual CCs. Even within the limited extended dietary FA subset recommended for use by other researchers, we found that at least 41% of the CCs differed by family (otariid vs. phocid seals) and 58% differed by predator species (sea lion vs. fur seal), suggesting that CCs may be highly species- specific. We also found that 64% of the CCs differed by prey type (sea lions consuming herring vs. eulachon), which raises some fundamental implementation issues. We also found significant differences in diet predictions when the herring- and eulachon-derived sets of CCs were applied to an actual multi-species diet. CCs are presently used as a simple mathematical attempt to describe potentially complex biochemistry. The results of this study raise questions regarding the validity of using CCs derived from an alternative predator species, and highlight some fundamental issues regarding QFASA methodology that need to be addressed through further controlled studies.
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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
 
Predation on gray whales and prolonged feeding on submerged carcasses by transient killer whales at Unimak Island, Alaska.
Barrett-Lennard, L. G., C. O. Matkin, J. W. Durban, E. L. Saulitis and D. Ellifrit. 2011.
Marine Ecology Progress Series 421:229-241.
abstract
As apex predators, killer whales Orcinus orca are expected to strongly influence the structure of marine communities by impacting the abundance, distribution, behavior, and evolution of their prey. Empirical assessments of these impacts are difficult, however, because killer whales are sparsely distributed, highly mobile, and difficult to observe. We present a 4 yr time series of observations of foraging and feeding behavior of >150 transient killer whales that aggregate annually during the northbound migration of gray whales past Unimak Island, Alaska. Most predatory attacks were on gray whale Eschrichtius robustus calves or yearlings and were quickly abandoned if calves were aggressively defended by their mothers. Attacks were conducted by groups of 3 to 4 killer whales, which attempted to drown their prey. Gray whales generally tried to move into shallow water along the shoreline when attacked; if they succeeded in reaching depths of 3 m or less, attacks were abandoned. Kills occurred in waters from 15 to 75 m deep or were moved into such areas after death. After some hours of feeding, the carcasses were usually left, but were re-visited and fed on by killer whales over several days. Carcasses or pieces of prey that floated onshore were actively consumed by brown bears Ursus arctos, and carcasses on the bottom were fed on by sleeper sharks Somniosus pacificus, apparently increasing the local density of both species.
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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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Estimating behavioral parameters in animal movement models using a state-augmented particle filter.
Dowd, M. and R. Joy. 2011.
Ecology 92:568-575.
abstract
Data on fine-scale animal movement are being collected worldwide, with the number of species being tagged and the resolution of data rapidly increasing. In this study, a general methodology is proposed to understand the patterns in these high-resolution movement time series that relate to marine animal behavior. The approach is illustrated with dive data from a northern fur seal (Callorhinus ursinus) tagged on the Pribilof Islands, Alaska, USA. We apply a state-space model composed of a movement model and corresponding high-resolution vertical movement data. The central goal is to estimate parameters of this movement model, particularly their variation on appropriate time scales, thereby providing a direct link to behavior. A particle filter with state augmentation is used to jointly estimate the movement parameters and the state. A multiple iterated filter using overlapping data segments is implemented to match the parameter time scale with the behavioral inference. The time variation in the auto-covariance function facilitates identification of a movement model, allows separation of observation and process noise, and provides for validation of results. The analysis yields fitted parameters that show distinct time-evolving changes in fur seal behavior over time, matching well what is observed in the original data set.
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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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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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Aerial audiograms of several California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) and Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) measured using single and multiple simultaneous auditory steady-state response methods.
Mulsow, J., C. Reichmuth, F.M.D. Gulland, D.A.S. Rosen and J.J. Finneran. 2011.
Journal of Experimental Biology 214:1138-1147.
abstract
Measurements of the electrophysiological auditory steady-state response (ASSR) have proven to be efficient for evaluating hearing sensitivity in odontocete cetaceans. In an effort to expand these methods to pinnipeds, ASSRs elicited by single and multiple simultaneous tones were used to measure aerial hearing thresholds in several California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) and Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus). There were no significant differences between thresholds measured using the single and multiple ASSR methods, despite the more rapid nature of data collection using the multiple ASSR method. There was a high degree of variability in ASSR thresholds among subjects; thresholds covered a range of ~40dB at each tested frequency. As expected, ASSR thresholds were elevated relative to previously reported psychophysical thresholds for California and Steller sea lions. The features of high-frequency hearing limit and relative sensitivity of most ASSR audiograms were, however, similar to those of psychophysical audiograms, suggesting that ASSR methods can be used to improve understanding of hearing demographics in sea lions, especially with respect to high-frequency hearing. Thresholds for one Steller sea lion were substantially elevated relative to all other subjects, demonstrating that ASSR methods can be used to detect hearing loss in sea lions.
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Whistle communication in mammal-eating killer whales (Orcinus orca): further evidence for acoustic divergence between ecotypes.
Riesch, R. and V.B. Deecke. 2011.
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 65:1377-1387.
abstract
Public signaling plays an important role in territorial and sexual displays in animals; however, in certain situations, it is advantageous to keep signaling private to prevent eavesdropping by unintended receivers. In the northeastern Pacific, two populations of killer whales (Orcinus orca), fish-eating resident killer whales and mammal-eating transient killer whales, share the same habitat. Previous studies have shown that residents use whistles as private signals during close-range communication, where they probably serve to coordinate behavioral interactions. Here, we investigated the whistling behavior of mammal-eating killer whales, and, based on divergent social structures and social behaviors between residents and transients, we predicted to find differences in both whistle usage and whistle parameters. Our results show that, like resident killer whales, transients produce both variable and stereotyped whistles. However, clear differences in whistle parameters between ecotypes show that the whistle repertoire of mammal-eating killer whales is clearly distinct from and less complex than that of fish-eating killer whales. Furthermore, mammal-eating killer whales only produce whistles during milling after kill and surface-active behaviors, but are almost completely silent during all other activities. Nonetheless, whistles of transient killer whales may still serve a role similar to that of resident killer whales. Mammal-eating killer whales seem to be under strong selection to keep their communication private from potential prey (whose hearing ranges overlap with that of killer whales), and they appear to accomplish this mainly by restricting vocal activity rather than by changes in whistle parameters.
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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
 
Photographic mark-recapture analysis of clustered mammal-eating killer whales around the Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska.
Durban, J., D. Ellifrit, M. Dahlheim, J. Waite, C. Matkin, L. Barrett-Lennard, G. Ellis, R. Pitman, R. LeDuc and P. Wade. 2010.
Marine Biology 157:1591-1604.
abstract
We used photographic mark-recapture methods to estimate the number of mammal-eating "transient" killer whales using the coastal waters from the central Gulf of Alaska to the central Aleutian Islands, around breeding rookeries of endangered Steller sea lions. We identified 154 individual killer whales from 6,489 photographs collected between July 2001 and August 2003. A Bayesian mixture model estimated seven distinct clusters (95% probability interval = 710) of individuals that were differentially covered by 14 boat-based surveys exhibiting varying degrees of association in space and time. Markov Chain Monte Carlo methods were used to sample identification probabilities across the distribution of clusters to estimate a total of 345 identified and undetected whales (95% probability interval = 255487). Estimates of covariance between surveys, in terms of their coverage of these clusters, indicated spatial population structure and seasonal movements from these near-shore waters, suggesting spatial and temporal variation in the predation pressure on coastal marine mammals.
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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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The diving behaviour of mammal-eating killer whales (Orcinus orca): variations with ecological not physiological factors. Canadian.
Miller, P. J. O., A. D. Shapiro and V. B. Deecke. 2010.
Journal of Zoology 88:1103-1112.
abstract
Mammal-eating killer whales (Orcinus orca(L., 1758)) are a rare example of social predators that hunt together in groups of sexually dimorphic adults and juveniles with diverse physiological diving capacities. Dayˆnight ecological differences should also affect diving as their prey show diel variation in activity and mammal-eating killer whales do not rely on echolocation for prey detection. Our objective was to explore the extent to which physiological aerobic capacities versus ecological factors shape the diving behaviour of this breath-hold diver. We used suction-cup-attached depth recorders (Dtags) to record 7608 dives of 11 animals in southeast Alaska. Analysis of dive sequences revealed a strong bout structure in both dive depth and duration. Dayˆnight comparisons revealed reduced rates of deep dives, longer shallow dives, and shallower long-duration dives at night. In contrast, dive variables did not differ by ageˆsex class. Estimates of the aerobic dive limit (cADL) suggest that juveniles exceeded their cADL during as much as 15% of long dives, whereas adult males and females never exceeded their cADL. Mammal-eating killer whales in this area appear to employ a strategy of physiological compromise, with smaller group members diving nearer their physiological limits and large-bodied males scaling down their physiological performance.
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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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Seasonal influence on the response of the somatotropic axis to nutrient restriction and re-alimentation in captive Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
Richmond, J.P., T. Jeanniard du Dot, D.A.S. Rosen and S.A. Zinn. 2010.
Journal of Experimental Zoology 311A:144-156.
abstract
Fluctuations in availability of prey resources can impede acquisition of sufficient energy for maintenance and growth. By investigating the hormonal mechanisms of the somatotropic axis that link nutrition, fat metabolism, and lean tissue accretion, we can assess the physiological impact of decreased nutrient intake on growth. Further, species that undergo seasonal periods of reduced intake as a part of their normal life history may have a differential seasonal response to nutrient restriction. This experiment evaluated the influence of season and age on the response of the somatotropic axis, including growth hormone (GH), insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I, and IGF-binding proteins (BP), to reduced nutrient intake and re-alimentation in Steller sea lions. Eight captive females (five juveniles, three sub-adults) were subject to 28-day periods of food restriction, controlled re-feeding, and ad libitum recovery in summer (long-day photoperiod) and winter (short-day photoperiod). Hormone concentrations were insensitive to type of fish fed (low fat pollock vs. high fat herring), but sensitive to energy intake. Body mass, fat, and IGF-I declined, whereas GH and IGFBP-2 increased during feed restriction. Reduced IGF-I and IGFBP with increased GH during controlled re-feeding suggest that animals did not reach positive energy balance until fed ad libitum. Increased IGF-I, IGFBP-2, IGFBP-3, and reduced GH observed in summer reflected seasonal differences in energy partitioning. There was a strong season and age effect in the response to restriction and re-alimentation, indicating that older, larger animals are better able to cope with stress associated with energy deficit, regardless of season.
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Stable isotope signal homogeneity and differences between and within pinniped muscle and skin.
Todd, S.K., B. Holm, D.A.S. Rosen and D.J. Tollit. 2010.
Marine Mammal Science 26:176-185.
abstract
Stable isotope analysis is often used to examine diet choice and tropic relationships in marine mammals. However, the technique makes a number of largely untested assumptions. For example, researchers often assume localized biopsies to be representative of the whole animal—that is, that the isotopic signal is homogenous within a tissue. Further, isotopic composition may differ across the body within the same tissue type due to differential assimilation or catabolization rates. We investigated the homogeneity of 13C and 15N values in skin and muscle across the body per individual in three pinniped species: Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus, n = 5), California sea lions (Zalophus californianus, n = 6), and harbor seals (Phoca vitulina, n = 7). We also assessed if there are consistent carbon and nitrogen isotope differences between these two commonly sampled tissues. Our results show that skin tissue was significantly 13C enriched when compared to muscle tissue, and more difficult to properly process. Despite expected differences across the body in physiological processes and biochemical composition, our data indicate stable isotope signal homogeneity across the body within both muscle and skin, for both carbon and nitrogen isotopes, in all three species. These results indicate that sufficient homogeneity exists within skin and muscle tissues to suggest that point sampling can be considered representative of entire tissues, and is thus a valid technique in stable isotope studies of marine mammals.
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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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Non-invasive measurement of thyroid hormone in feces of a diverse array of avian and mammalian species.
Wasser, S. K., J. C. Azkarate, R. K. Booth, L. Hayward, K. Hunt, K. Ayres, C. Vynne and K Gobush. 2010.
General and Comparative Endocrinology 168:1-7.
abstract
We developed and validated a non-invasive thyroid hormone measure in feces of a diverse array of birds and mammals. An I-131 radiolabel ingestion study in domestic dogs coupled with High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) analysis, showed that peak excretion in feces occurred at 24-48 h post-ingestion, with I-131-labelled thyroid hormone metabolites excreted primarily as triiodothyronine (T3) and relatively little thyroxine (T4), at all excretion times examined. The immunoreactive T3 profile across these same HPLC fractions closely corresponded with the I-131 radioactive profile. By contrast, the T4 immuno-reactive profile was disproportionately high, suggesting that T4 excretion included a high percentage of T4 stores. We optimized and validated T3 and T4 extraction and assay methods in feces of wild northern spotted owls, African elephants, howler monkeys, caribou, moose, wolf, maned wolf, killer whales and Steller sea lions. We explained 99% of the variance in high and low T3 concentrations derived from species-specific sample pools, after controlling for species and the various extraction methods tested. Fecal T3 reflected nutritional deficits in two male and three female howler monkeys held in captivity for translocation from a highly degraded habitat. Results suggest that thyroid hormone can be accurately and reliably measured in feces, providing important indices for environmental physiology across a diverse array of birds and mammals.
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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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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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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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A model to predict fasting capacities and utilization of body energy stores in weaned Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) during periods of reduced prey availability.
Noren, D.P., L.D. Rea, and T.R. Loughlin. 2009.
Canadian Journal of Zoology 87:852-864.
abstract
The population decline of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus (Schreber, 1776)) may be linked to a decline in juvenile survivorship. Limitations in prey availability may contribute to the decline, thus it is important to understand fast- ing capacities of Steller sea lions. For most mammals, fat catabolism is the preferred energetic pathway to ensure that pro- tein is spared. However, marine mammals also have a conflicting requirement to conserve fat because the main site of fat storage is the blubber layer, which is also their primary thermal barrier when at sea. We developed a dynamic state varia- ble model to demonstrate how protein and fat reserve utilization and maximum fasting duration are influenced by body condition and time spent foraging. This model was parameterized with respect to conditions faced by juvenile and subadult Steller sea lions foraging unsuccessfully during a period of reduced prey availability. The model accurately predicted changes in fat and protein mass of juvenile and subadult Steller sea lions fasting in captivity. Furthermore, the model demonstrated that body lipid content, body mass, and the proportion of time spent in water influence energy reserve catabolism and maximum fasting durations. Consequently, small, lean individuals are particularly susceptible to reductions in prey availability.
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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 lions Eumetopias jubatus and nutritional stress: evidence from captive studies.
Rosen, D.A.S. 2009.
Mammal Review 39:284-306.
abstract
1. Numbers of Steller sea lions Eumetopias jubatus in the North Pacific have declined. According to the Nutritional Stress Hypothesis, this decline is due to reduced food availability. Data from studies conducted on pinnipeds in the laboratory are used here to test whether the Nutritional Stress Hypothesis can explain the decline of Steller sea lions. 2. Overall, there is strong evidence for biologically meaningful differences in the nutritional quality of major prey species. Steller sea lions can partly compensate for low-quality prey by increasing their food consumption. 3. There appear to be no detrimental effects of low-lipid prey on sea lion growth or body composition when sea lions can consume sufficient quantities of prey. However, the ability to increase consumption is physiologically limited, particularly in young animals. Overall, it is more difficult to maintain energy intake on a diet of low-quality prey than on a normal diet. 4. Under conditions of inadequate food intake (either due to decreased prey availability or quality, or increased energy requirements) the overall impacts of nutritional stress are complex, and are dependent upon season, prey quality, age, and the duration and intensity of the nutritional stress event. 5. Studies on pinnipeds in the laboratory have been instrumental in identifying the conditions under which changes in sea lion prey can result in nutritional stress, and the nature of the physiological impacts of nutritional stress events.
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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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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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Phenotypic plasticity in age at first reproduction of female northern sea otters (Enhydra lutris kenyoni).
von Biela, V.R., V.A. Gill, J.L. Bodkin, and J.M. Burns. 2009.
Journal of Mammalogy 90:1224-1231.
abstract
Life-history theory predicts that within a species, reproduction and survival rates will differ among populations that differ in resource availability or predation rates through phenotypic plasticity. When populations are near carrying capacity (K) or when they are declining due to reduced prey resources, the average age at 1st reproduction (average AFR) is predicted to be older than in populations below K. Differences between the trajectories of northern sea otter (Enhydra lutris kenyoni) populations in Alaska provides an opportunity to examine phenotypic plasticity. Using premolar teeth or reproductive tracts, we estimated average AFR from demographically distinct populations of sea otters in Alaska. We obtained samples from 2 populations near K, Prince William Sound (PWS) and the Aleutian Archipelago (archived samples), and from 2 populations below K, the Kodiak Archipelago and Sitka. The average AFR was lower in populations below K (3.60 years ± 0.16 SD) compared to those near K (4.21 ± 0.13 years, P < 0.001), and differed among all populations, with the Aleutian population possessing the oldest average AFR (4.29 ± 0.09 years) followed by PWS (4.05 ± 0.24 years), Sitka (3.80 ± 0.21 years), and Kodiak (3.19 ± 0.37 years). The difference in average AFR among populations supports life-history theory and provides evidence of phenotypic plasticity in sea otters. Our findings highlight the value of using average AFR as a tool for monitoring mammalian populations.
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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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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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Environmental data for the eastern North Pacific and Bering Sea.
Gregr, E.J. and R. Coatta. 2008.
Fisheries Centre Research Reports Vol 16 pp. 79
abstract
As part of our investigations into Steller sea lion habitat use and fisheries economics, we have prepared a collection of physical oceanographic data for the eastern North Pacific and the Bering Sea. Data include rectified grids of chlorophyll-a concentrations, sea surface temperature, slope of sea surface temperature, sea level anomaly, wind speed, current velocity and direction, mixed layer depth, and bathymetry. Geographic Information System-compatible raster (gridded) data were created from available on-line sources as both monthly and long-term averages. Monthly averages were produced for all available years for each sensor at a spatial scale of 9x9 km2 for the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea. We prepared long-term averages (climatologies) at 3x3 km2 for the northern Gulf of Alaska, and for the entire eastern North Pacific we prepared each source data set at its native resolution. We evaluated the sea surface temperature data at the 9x9 km2 scale using available quality data, and improved the data provided by interpolating through low quality pixels. Considerable processing was required to create a continuous North Pacific perspective, and to ensure that the data sets were correctly aligned at the different spatial scales. We also present 2-week averaged data from the output of a Regional Ocean Modelling System (ROMS) implemented for the northern Gulf of Alaska (3x3 km2) for the year 2001. These data provide a representation of the changing, vertical structure of the ocean. Given the significant investment to create a rectified data collection, we have prepared the data for distribution to interested researchers. The ROMS data are provided in MS Access format, and the remote sensing data as binary float files. Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC)-compatible metadata have been prepared. The data described herein are available from the Marine Mammal Research Unit web site or on request.
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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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Assessing age distributions of killer whale Orcinus orca populations from the composition of endogenous fatty acids in their outer blubber layers.
Herman, D.P., Matkin, C.O., Ylitalo, G.M., Durban, J.W., Hanson, M.B., Dahlheim, M.E., Straley, J.M., Wade, P.R., Tilbury, K.L., Boyer, R.H. 2008.
Marine Ecology Progress Series 372:289-302.
abstract
Knowledge of the age distributions of killer whale Orcinus orca populations is critical to assess their status and long-term viability. Except for accessible, well-studied populations for which historical sighting data have been collected, currently there is no reliable benign method to determine the specific age of live animals for remote populations. To fill this gap in our knowledge of age structure, we describe new methods by which age can be deduced from measurements of specific lipids, endogenous fatty acids (FAs) and FA ratios present in their outer blubber layers. Whereas correlation of wax and sterol esters with age was reasonable for female ‘resident’ killer whales, it was less well-defined for males and ‘transients.’ Individual short-, branched-, and odd-chain FAs correlated better with age for transients and residents of both sexes, but these single parameter relationships were population specific and seemingly varied with long-term diet. Alternatively, a simple,empirical multi-linear model derived from the combination of 2 specific FA ratios enabled the ages of individual eastern North Pacific killer whales to be predicted with good precision (σ = ±3.8 yr), appeared to be independent of individual diet and was applicable to both genders and ecotypes. The model was applied to several less well-studied killer whale populations to predict their age distributions from their blubber FA compositions, and these distributions were compared with a population of known age structure. Most interestingly, these results provide evidence for the first time that adult male transient killer whales appear to have lower life expectancies than do their resident counterparts in Alaska.
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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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Evaluating Quantitative Fatty Acid Signature Analysis (QFASA) using harbour seals (Phoca vitulina richardsi) in captive feeding studies.
Nordstrom, C.A., L.J. Wilson, S.J. Iverson and D.J. Tollit. 2008.
Marine Ecology Progress Series 360:245-263.
abstract
Quantitative fatty acid (FA) signature analysis (QFASA) has recently been developed to estimate the species composition of predator diets by statistically comparing FA signatures of predator adipose tissue with that of their potential prey. Captive feeding trials were used to test the technique with newly-weaned harbour seals (Phoca vitulina richardsi, N = 21). Two groups of seals were fed monotypic diets of either Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) or surf smelt (Hypomesus pretiosus) for 42 days while a third group was fed smelt (21 days) followed by herring (21 days). Blubber biopsies were taken dorsally at day 0, 21 and 42. Specific calibration coefficients (CC) required by QFASA were developed from 4 juvenile harbour seals and in some cases differed by two-fold with previously reported phocid CC. QFASA diet estimates were evaluated using 2 CC sets, 15 FA subsets and a library of 3 – 11 potential prey species. Diet switches were best tracked using the harbour seal CC and a new FA subset. Overall prey misclassifications were apparent (mean = 12%, range = 4 – 25%) when modeled with 8 additional prey not fed, often consistent with overlapping prey FA signatures. Blubber FA turnover rates were not strictly linear and in the order of 1.5 – 3 months in newly-weaned animals. Following model parameter optimization, QFASA estimates reflected major diet trends in the feeding study, but were sensitive to the CC and FA subsets used as well as to prey species with similar FA signatures. Our results have important implications in the application of QFASA to study pinniped diets in more complex conditions.
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Hormone changes indicate that winter is a critical period for food shortages in Steller sea lions.
Rosen, D.A.S., Kumagai, S. 2008.
Journal of Comparative Physiology B 178:573-583.
abstract
Given that many marine mammals display seasonal energetic priorities, it is important to investigate whether the impact of unexpected food restriction differs during the year. Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) fed restricted diets for up to 9 days during spring, summer, fall, and winter lost an average of 10% of their initial body mass. We tracked changes in the levels of three hormones (cortisol, total thyroxine—TT4, total triiodothyronine—TT3) and one blood metabolite (blood urea nitrogen—BUN) following a food restriction in relation to season, body mass, body composition, and metabolism. Degree of changes in cortisol, TT3, and BUN after food restriction was significantly affected by season. The greatest changes in cortisol (+231%), BUN (+11.4%), TT4 (-23.3%), and TT3 (-35.6%) occurred in the winter (November/December) when rates of body mass loss were also greatest. Changes in cortisol levels were positively related to total body mass loss, while changes in TT3 levels were negatively related. While greater increases in BUN were related to greater rates of mass loss, the use of BUN levels as an indicator of metabolic state is complicated by the type and level of food intake. The observed changes in hormone levels support morphological data suggesting Steller sea lions may be more strongly impacted by short-term, reduced energy intake during winter than at other times of the year.
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Marine Mammals in the Lab: Tools for Conservation and Science.
Rosen, D.A.S. and A.W. Trites. 2008.
In North Pacific Universities Marine Mammal Research Consortium. Vancouver, BC. pp. 15 pages
abstract
Twenty-two participants from a variety of backgrounds and interests discussed how to improve the nature of research with marine mammals in the laboratory and ensure its continuation as a vital scientific resource in the future. There was agreement that captive marine mammals represent a valuable scientific asset. Many of the pressing conservation and scientific research questions pertaining to marine mammals cannot be carried out with their wild counterparts. However, studying marine mammals in the laboratory incurs specific financial, scientific, and logistical challenges. The workshop generated potential solutions to many of these issues. Participants expressed the need for greater cooperation and coordination between scientists to optimize the scientific value of research with captive marine mammals, and to minimize the costs of such research. This could be enhanced through scheduled in-person gatherings and web-based portals for listing active and proposed research. Better use must also be made of scientific resources and expertise, and novel sources of revenue have to be generated. There should also be greater sharing of documents relating to experimental design and research permitting. The effectiveness of research will benefit from greater communication between researchers and husbandry staff at institutions holding animals for research. Such efforts should raise the profile (and acceptance) of captive marine mammals science within the scientific community and for program administrators, leading to greater financial and research opportunities. Nine specific recommendations were forwarded that could be immediately implemented to enhance communication and increase the value of captive marine mammal science: 1. Produce a list of research resources (animals, specialized skills and equipment); 2. Create a list of on-going captive marine mammal studies; 3. Produce a list of publications derived from research with captive marine mammals; 4. Develop a set of guidelines for communication, responsibilities, and intellectual ownership for collaborative projects; 5. Implement means for coordination of future studies (both web-based and scheduled workshop/meetings); 6. Design a means for sharing standard Operating Procedures; 7. Hold a workshop to increase statistical rigor and standards in experimental design; 8. Introduce the use of annual survival rates into institutions holding marine mammals; and 9. Heighten the awareness of the value and prevalence of captive studies to the Us Marine Mammal Commission.
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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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Evaluating cementum to determine past reproduction in northern sea otters.
von Biela, V.R., J.W. Testa, V.A. Gill and J.M. Burns. 2008.
Journal of Wildlife Management 72:618-624.
abstract
Age at first reproduction (AFR) has been difficult to quantify in mammals, as the most commonly used methods require reproductive tracts or direct observations. However, work in several large mammal species suggests that the width of cementum light bands in teeth decline once females begin to reproduce, suggesting that teeth structures might provide a new tool to examine AFR. To determine if changes in cementum light band width could be used to calculate AFR for the northern sea otter (Enhydra lutris kenyoni), we measured cementum light band widths on sectioned premolar teeth and compared them to reproductive tracts. We classified otters as parous if any single light band was narrower than a threshold value, selected as the value that minimized error rates. At a threshold value of 0.32, we correctly identified otters as parous or nulliparous in 83% of cases (n = 92) as compared to reproductive tracts, and the AFR estimated from teeth samples (3.52 ± 0.032 yr) was not different from that determined by reproductive tract analysis (3.45 ± 0.031 yr; t-test, P > 0.05). These data support the use of cementum as an indicator of past reproduction in individual female otters, which can then be used to estimate average AFR. Given that declines in cementum width have been described for other mammal species, the same quantitative approach used here could be applied to other species.
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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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Testing the generality of the trophic cascade paradigm for sea otters: a case study with kelp forests in northern Washington, USA.
Carter, S.K., G.R. VanBlaricom and B.L. Allen. 2007.
Hydrobiolgia 579:233-249.
abstract
Trophic cascade hypotheses for biological communities, linking predation by upper trophic levels to major features of ecological structure and dynamics at lower trophic levels, are widely subscribed and may influence conservation policy. Few such hypotheses have been evaluated for temporal or spatial generality. Previous studies of sea otter (Enhydra lutris predation along the outer coast of North America suggest a pattern, often elevated to the status of paradigm, in which sea otter presence leads to reduced sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus spp.) biomass and rapid increases in abundance and diversity of annual algal species, followed by a decline in diversity as one or a few perennial algal species become dominant. Both sea otter predation and commercial sea urchin harvest are ecologically and economically important sources of urchin mortality in nearshore benthic systems in northern Washington marine waters. We recorded changes in density of macroalgae in San Juan Channel, a marine reserve in the physically protected inland waters of northern Washington, resulting from three levels of experimental urchin harvest: (1) simulated sea otter predation (monthly complete harvest of sea urchins), (2) simulated commercial urchin harvest (annual size-selective harvest of sea urchins), and (3) no harvest (control). The two experimental urchin removal treatments did not significantly increase the density of perennial (Agarum and Laminaria) or annual (Desmarestia, Costaria, Alaria and Nereocystisi) species of macroalgae after 2 years, despite significant and persistent decreases in urchin densities. Our results suggest that other factors such as grazing by other invertebrates, the presence of dense Agarum stands, and recruitment frequency of macroalgae and macroinvertebrates may play a large role in influencing community structure in San Juan Channel and other physically protected marine waters within the range of sea otters.
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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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Quantitative analysis of prey DNA in pinniped faeces: potential to estimate diet composition?
Deagle, B.E. and D.J. Tollit. 2007.
Conservation Genetics 8:743-747.
abstract
Recent studies have shown prey DNA can be consistently recovered from faeces and effectively used to provide dietary information. We investigate the possibility of using the relative amounts of DNA recovered from different prey in faeces to obtain quantitative diet composition data. Faecal samples were obtained from captive Steller seas lions (Eumetopias jubatus) being fed a fish diet consisting of 50% Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii), 36% surf smelt (Hypomesus pretiosus) and 14% sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) by mass. Quantitative real-time PCR was used to measure the amount of mtDNA from the three fish species in: (i) a blended tissue mix representative of the sea lion diet and (ii) the sea lion faecal samples. The percent composition of fish mtDNA extracted from the undigested tissue samples corresponded reasonably well to the mass of fish in the mixture. In the faecal samples (n = 23) the absolute amount of fish mtDNA recovered varied 100-fold, but the percent composition of the three fish was relatively consistent (57.5 ± 9.3% for herring, 19.3 ± 6.6% for smelt and 23.2 ± 12.2% for salmon). Differences between the mtDNA proportions in the tissue samples compared to the faecal samples indicate there are prey-specific biases in DNA survival during digestion. These biases may be less than those commonly observed in the conventional analysis of prey hard remains. Further investigation of this approach is warranted.
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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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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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Adaptive classification of marine ecosystems: identifying biologically meaningful regions in the marine environment.
Gregr, E.J. and K. Bodtker. 2007.
Deep-Sea Research Part 1 54:385-402.
abstract
The move to ecosystem-based management of marine fisheries and endangered species would be greatly facilitated by a quantitative method for identifying marine ecosystems that capture temporal dynamics at meso-scale (10?s or 100?s of kilometers) resolutions. Understanding the dynamics of ecosystem boundaries, which may differ according to the species of interest or the management objectives, is a fundamental challenge of ecosystem-based management. We present an adaptive ecosystem classification that can accommodate these different needs. To demonstrate the approach, we quantitatively bounded distinct, biologically meaningful marine regions in the North Pacific Ocean based on physical oceanography. We identified the regions by applying image classification algorithms to a comprehensive description of the ocean?s surface, derived from an oceanographic circulation model. Our resulting maps illustrate 15 distinct marine regions. We investigated seasonal and long-term c! hanges in the pattern of regions and their boundaries by dividing the oceanographic data into four seasons and two 10-year time periods, one on either side of the 1976 ? 1977 North Pacific Ocean climate regime shift. The size and location of our mapped regions related well to previously described water masses in the North Pacific. We compared our results for each season across the regime shift and for sequential seasons within regimes using the Kappa Index of Agreement and the index of Average Mutual Information. Seasonal patterns were more similar between regimes than from one season to the next within a regime. The magnitude of seasonal transitions also appeared to differ before and after the regime shift. We assessed the biological relevance of the identified regions using seasonal maps derived from remotely sensed chlorophyll-a concentrations ([chl-a]). We used Kruskal-Wallis and Wilcoxon rank sum tests to evaluate the correspondence between the [chl-a] maps and our pos! t-regime shift regions. There was a significant difference in ! [chl-a] among the regions in all seasons. We found that the number of regions with distinct chlorophyll signatures, and the associations between different regions, varied by season. The overall pattern of association between the regions was suggestive of observed, broad-scale patterns in the seasonal development and distribution of primary production in the North Pacific. This demonstrated that regions with different biological properties can be delineated using only physical variables. The flexibility of our approach will enable researchers to visualize the geographic extents of regions with similar physical conditions, providing insight into ocean dynamics and changes in marine ecosystems. It will also provide resource managers with a powerful tool for broad application in ecosystem-based management and conservation of marine resources.
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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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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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Otariid seals.
Haulena, M. 2007.
In D. Heard and N. Caulkett G. West (eds), Zoo Animal and Wildlife Immobilization and Anesthesia. Blackwell Publishing, Ames. pp. 469-478.
abstract
The family Otariidae (sea lions and fur seals) within the order Pinnipedia is composed of 14 species. Otariids bear weight on all four flippers, climb, locomote quickly, and are more adept on land than phocid seals. However, their aquatic adaptations are less developed and they generally do not dive as deep or for as long as phocids. Anatomical and physiological adaptations for diving (e.g., large venous sinuses and dive response) therefore, are not as extreme. Some of these differences make otariids more difficult to physically or mechanically restrain than phocids of the same weight. Additionally, they are less sensitive to immobilization drugs and anesthetic regimens are similar to those of terrestrial carnivores. As with any species, successful otariid anesthesia is dependent upon adequate planning and availability of the proper equipment. The animal’s size, species, sex, and physiological status are important considerations in choosing the best immobilization method. The site (captive facility versus free-living animals in the field), experience of the personnel, and availability of equipment and drugs often dictate the method chosen. Finally, the degree of invasiveness and expected duration of the procedure affect decisions.
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Evaluating network analysis indicators of ecosystem status in the Gulf of Alaska.
Heymans, S.J.J., S. Guenette and V. Christensen. 2007.
Ecosystems 10:488-502.
abstract
This is the first study on the emergent properties for empirical ecosystem models that have been validated by time series information. Ecosystem models of the western and central Aleutian Islands and Southeast Alaska were used to examine indices of ecosystem status generated from network analysis and incorporated into Ecopath with Ecosim. Dynamic simulations of the two ecosystems over the past 40 years were employed to examine if these indices reflect the dissimilar changes that occurred in the ecosystems. The results showed that the total systems throughput (TST) and ascendency (A) followed the climate change signature (Pacific decadal oscillation, PDO) in both ecosystems, while the redundancy (R) followed the inverse trend. The different trajectories for important species such as Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus), Atka mackerel (Pleurogrammus monopterygius), pollock (Theragra chalcograma), herring (Clupea pallasii), Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus) and halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) were noticeable in the Finn cycling index (FCI), entropy (H) and average mutual information (AMI): not showing large change during the time that the Stellers sea lions, herring, Pacific cod, halibut and arrowtooth flounder (Atheresthes stomias) increased in Southeast Alaska, but showing large declines during the decline of Steller sea lions, sharks, Atka mackerel and arrowtooth flounder in the Aleutians. On the whole, there was a change in the emergent properties of the Aleutians around 1976 that was not seen in Southeast Alaska. Conversely, the emergent properties of both systems showed a change around 1988, which indicated that both systems were unstable after 1988.
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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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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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Use of chemical tracers in assessing the diet and foraging regions of eastern North Pacific killer whales.
Krahn, M.M.,Krahn, M.M., Herman, D.P., Matkin, C.O., Durban, J.W., Barrett-Lennard, L., Burrows, D.G., Dahlheim, M.E., Black, N., LeDuc, R.G. and Wade, P.R. 2007.
Marine Environmental Research 63:91-114.
abstract
Top predators in the marine environment integrate chemical signals acquired from their prey that reflect both the species consumed and the regions from which the prey were taken. These chemical tracersËœstable isotope ratios of carbon and nitrogen; persistent organic pollutant (POP) concentrations, patterns and ratios; and fatty acid profilesËœwere measured in blubber biopsy samples from North Pacific killer whales (Orcinus orca) (n = 84) and were used to provide further insight into their diet, particularly for the offshore group, about which little dietary information is available. The offshore killer whales were shown to consume prey species that were distinctly different from those of sympatric resident and transient killer whales. In addition, it was confirmed that the offshores forage as far south as California. Thus, these results provide evidence that the offshores belong to a third killer whale ecotype. Resident killer whale populations showed a gradient in stable isotope profiles from west (central Aleutians) to east (Gulf of Alaska) that, in part, can be attributed to a shift from off-shelf to continental shelf-based prey. Finally, stable isotope ratio results, supported by field observations, showed that the diet in spring and summer of eastern Aleutian Island transient killer whales is apparently not composed exclusively of Steller sea lions.
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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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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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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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Killer whale feeding ecology and non-predatory interactions with other marine mammals in the Glacier Bay a region of Alaska.
Matkin, D.R., J.M. Straley, and C.M. Gabriele. 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. 155-158.
abstract
Populations of killer whales in southeastern Alaska overlap with populations inhabiting Prince William Sound, Alaska and British Columbia, Canada. We synthesize the results of a 20-year study in Glacier Bay and Icy Strait, Alaska. Individuals were photo-identified and predation events documented. Foraging strategies of killer whales were compared to those documented in similar studies in adjacent areas. One hundred twenty of the resident form of killer whales, 150 of the West Coast transients, 13 of the Gulf of Alaska transients and 14 of the offshore form were photo-identified in the study area. Residents preyed primarily on silver salmon and Pacific halibut. The prey of transients were harbor seals (40 percent), harbor porpoise(23 percent), Steller sea lions (16 percent), seabirds (14 percent), Dall’s porpoise (5 percent) and minke whale (2 percent). Humpback whales were observed closely approaching transient groups that were attacking other marine mammals. Nonpredatory interactions also occurred between killer whales and Steller sea lions.
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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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Thermal and digestive constraints to foraging behavior in marine mammals.
Rosen, D.A.S., A.J. Winship, and L.A. Hoopes. 2007.
Philosophical Transactions, Royal Society of London B 362:2151-2168.
abstract
While foraging models of terrestrial mammals are concerned primarily with optimizing time/energy budgets, models of foraging behavior in marine mammals have been primarily concerned with physiological constraints. This has historically centered on calculations of aerobic dive limits. However, other physiological limits are key to forming foraging behavior, including digestive limitations to food intake and thermoregulation. The ability of an animal to consume sufficient prey to meet its energy requirements is partly determined by its ability to acquire prey (limited by available foraging time, diving capabilities and thermoregulatory costs) and to process that prey (limited by maximum digestion capacity and the time devoted to digestion). Failure to consume sufficient prey will have feedback effects on foraging, thermoregulation, and digestive capacity through several interacting avenues. Energy deficits will be met through catabolism of tissues, principally the hypodermal lipid layer. Depletion of this blubber layer can affect both buoyancy and gait, increasing the costs and decreasing the efficiency of subsequent foraging attempts. Depletion of the insulative blubber layer may also increase thermoregulatory costs, which will decrease foraging abilities through higher metabolic overheads. Thus, an energy deficit may lead to a downward spiral of increased tissue catabolism to pay for increased energy costs. Conversely, the heat generated through digestion and foraging activity may help to offset thermoregulatory costs. Finally, the circulatory demands of diving, thermoregulation, and digestion may be mutually incompatible. This may force animals to alter time budgets to balance these exclusive demands. Analysis of these interacting processes will lead to a greater understanding of the physiological constraints within which foraging behavior must operate.
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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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Whales and whaling in the North Pacific: oceanographic insights and ecosystem impacts.
Springer, A.M., G.B. Van Vliet, J.F. Piatt and E.M. Danner. 2007.
In J.A. Estes, R.L. Brownell, D.P. DeMaster, D.P. Doak and T.M. Williams (eds), Whales, whaling, and ocean ecosystems. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA. pp. 245-261.
abstract
Great whale populations are recovering in the North Pacific, perhaps even the right whale stock. As population numbers grow, so too will the roles they play in the ecosystem. Whether food webs and communities return to their former condition remains to be seen, as much has changed in the intervening years. The mean climate state over the northern North Pacific has undergone three major shifts since the end of the modern whaling era, and pinniped and sea otter populations throughout the Aleutian Islands and western Gulf of Alaska have collapsed. The fundamental rules governing rates and pathways of energy exchange in the ocean are likely still the same, but the constraints are certainly different now than they were in the hierarchy of the mature ecosystem 50 to150 years ago. Attention should be focused now on ways to improve our understanding of top-down oceanography (predator-prey interactions at all trophic levels, particularly high levels); how marine community structure and dynamics are influenced by those processes; and how ecosystems in their dramatically altered condition today behave in response to environmental change.
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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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Studying marine mammal cognition in the wild - a review of four decades of playback experiments.
Deecke, V.B. 2006.
Aquatic Mammals 32(4):461-482.
abstract
The playback of sounds to animals to assess their behavioural responses presents a powerful tool to study animal cognition in the wild. While playbacks are commonly used to study acoustic responses in birds and other terrestrial animals, their application to the study of marine mammal cognition so far has been limited. A survey of the published literature on field playback experiments with marine mammals identified 46 studies, with a trend towards increased use of playback approaches in recent years. Field playbacks to marine mammals have been used to address questions of wildlife management, the impact of anthropogenic noise, acoustic interactions between predators and prey, individual and kin recognition, as well as the function of communicative sounds. This paper summarizes the major findings of marine mammal playbacks to date and reviews recent advances in the design and execution of playback experiments, with special reference to marine mammals. Issues concer! ning appropriate presentation of acoustic stimuli, appropriate quantification of behavioural responses, as well as appropriate control and replication of treatments are discussed. An analysis of replication in marine mammal playbacks showed that the use of a small number of playback stimuli to conduct multiple playback trials (pseudoreplication) was common. This overview of playback experiments in the study of marine mammal cognition in the wild showed that such approaches contribute significantly to the field; however, in many cases there appears to be substantial room for improvement of playback procedure and experimental design
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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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Modeling spatial dynamics of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) using maximum likelihood and Bayesian methods: evaluating causes for population decline.
Fay, G. and A.E. Punt. 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. 405-433.
abstract
The timing and extent of the negative population trend in the abundance of the western stock of Steller sea lions has not been geographically uniform. A stochastic metapopulation dynamics model is developed for Steller sea lions. This model allows for geographical differences in factors affecting population processes, and can be parameterized to represent a wide range of hypotheses for the decline in Steller sea lion abundance. Bayesian and maximum likelihood methods are used to fit this model to pup and non-pup count data, age structure samples, and survival estimates. Inferences from model selection criteria highlight the spatial variability in the types of impact deemed to provide most parsimonious representation of the data. Bayesian posteriors for the estimated model parameters show that many combinations of parameter values are able to provide similar fits to the data, even given a specific hypothesis for the decline. This highlights the uncertainty in the precise nature of the impact of these hypotheses. Indeed, while pup production is generally estimated consistently among models, estimates of the size of other components of the Steller sea lion population (such as total population size) depend greatly on the assumptions regarding the cause of the decline. The results demonstrate that future simulation modeling approaches will require more formal, spatial, and mechanistic descriptions of the manner in which specific hypotheses for the decline affect the population.
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Conservation and management of exploited shark populations based on reproductive value.
Gallucci, V.F., I.G. Taylor and K. Erzini. 2006.
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 63:931-942.
abstract
Several life history traits of sharks result in juveniles being particularly vulnerable to exploitation. However, population level impacts of harvests on juvenile sharks have not been well quantified. This paper examines a range of harvest strategies, including those targeting juveniles. Reproductive value and yield per recruit are used to compare the harvests, which are represented by Leslie matrix models with a harvest matrix. Two species are used as examples: the short-lived Rhizoprionodon taylori and the long-lived Squalus acanthias. Harvests that maintain a stationary population size cause reproductive values to change in opposing ways, but they remove equal fractions of the population?s reproductive potential. A new theorem gives population growth as a function of the fraction of reproductive potential removed by a harvest, a relationship useful for comparing harvests on juveniles and adults. Stochastic projections indicate that the risk of depletion is associated with the fraction of reproductive potential removed annually, a measure which encompasses the information in both the selectivity and the rate of fishing mortality. These results indicate the value of focusing conservation efforts on preserving reproductive potential.
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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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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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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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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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Techniques for real-time, active tracking of sea lions.
Lea, M.A., and B. Wilson. 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. 235-253.
abstract
The movements of otariids at sea are generally studied by satellite telemetry. At fine scales (1-20km), however, the level of precision provided by this technique (+- mean 1.5-19 km) may be insufficient to accurately reconstruct the track of an individual and/or integrate such movement data with habitat and environmental features. An alternative technique is the boat-based active tracking of individuals by very high frequency (VHF) or acoustic telemetry. By following an individual equipped with transmitters, detailed observations of habitat use, predator occurrence, social context, behavioral state, and prey availability may be integrated to provide a real-time context in which to place the animals? movements. For species such as the Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus), which are difficult to recapture, such techniques enable the collection of much needed contextual information. Here we describe the methods we applied to actively track Steller sea lions. Twenty-o! ne juveniles were captured in southeast Alaska during October 2003 and February 2004. They were fitted with a variety of VHF, satellite, and/or acoustic tags and were tracked through the winter and spring of 2003-2004. The use of ship-based VHF telemetry in conjunction with real time navigation plotting software was highly successful and provided 37 fine-scale tracks of coastal and pelagic sea lion movements covering a total distance of 482 km. Acoustic telemetry techniques were less successful because of the suspected overlap in tag transmission frequency and sea lion hearing. The study represents the first active tracking of a sea lion species, highlighting the high-resolution tracks and contextual behavioral and habitat information that can be obtained using VHF telemetry at sea.
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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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Can experimental manipulation be used to determine the cause of the decline of western stock of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus)?
Punt, A.E. and G. Fay. 2006.
In A.W. Trites, S. Atkinson, D.P. DeMaster, L.W. Fritz, T.S.ReaL.D. Gelatt and K. Wynne (eds), Sea Lions of the World. Alaska Sea Grant College Program, University of Alaska, Fairbanks. pp. 435-454.
abstract
A variety of reasons have been postulated for the decline of Steller sea lions (Otariidae: Eumetopias jubatus) in the Northeast Pacific. To date, however, it has proved impossible to distinguish among these reasons given the available data. In principle, experimental management based on spatial replication of treatments could be used to discriminate among some of these hypotheses. A simulation protocol was developed and applied to evaluate the power of a set of potential experiments to distinguish between whether the cause of the decline was fishing-induced or due to other factors. The simulations are based on an operating model that is individual-based and spatially explicit, and can be parameterized to represent the implications of a range of possible causes for the decline. This model can be used to generate the types of data typically available for the western stock of Steller sea lions. Experiments based on splitting four of the regions identified for past ana! lyses of population dynamics information into sectors that are either open to some fishing or completely closed are considered. The performance of these experiments is, however, poor, owing to the impact of movement, different historical trends in different areas, demographic stochasticity, and the likely size of the effect that the experiments are attempting to detect. These results suggest that the currently available information imply that large-scale experimental manipulation by means of additional spatial closures, where the results are analyzed by examining trends in pup counts, is unlikely to provide an effective means of discriminating among alternative hypotheses for the declining Steller sea lions in Alaska.
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Effects of prey composition on the endocrine response to nutrient restriction and re-alimination in Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
Richmond, J. P., T. Jeanniard du Dot, D. A. S. Rosen and S. A. Zinn. 2006.
Symposia of the Comparative Nutrition Society 63:136-141.
abstract
Little is known about the mechanism in which decreased nutrient intake influences the physiology of Steller sea lions. By investigating the factors that link nutrition, fat metabolism and lean tissue accretion, we can assess the impact of decreased nutrient intake on energy storage and lean tissue growth, which may have implications for survival. Captive Steller sea lion females (n = 8, 2 to 5 year of age) were used to examine changes in the somatotropic axis in response to decreased nutrient intake. Animals were placed on a normal herring maintenance diet for 1 month. After this 1 month ‘baseline’ period four animals were placed on a herring submaintenance diet and four animals were fed an isocaloric Pollock submaintenance diet for 1 month. During the 1 month submaintenance period, the animals lost 10 to 15% of their body mass. In the 1 month re-alimentation period, only three animals increased mass to their initial value. Concentrations of IGF-I followed the expected pattern paralleling changes in intake. Concentrations of GH were more variable than IGF-I. Concentrations of IGFBP generally followed the expected response based on domestic animal research. The overall concentration of IGFBP-3 declined with decreased nutrient intake. In contrast, IGFBP-2 increased with decreasing nutrient intake.
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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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Interacting physiological constraints to foraging behavior in marine mammals.
Rosen, D. A. S., A. J. Winship and L. A. Hoopes. 2006.
Symposia of the Comparative Nutrition Society 63:151-156.
abstract
Marine mammals face distinct environmental conditions that can translate into unique physiological challenges. Studies of foraging behavior in marine (diving) mammals have primarily focused on how the physiological constraint of aerobic dive limits defines their strategies. However, there are other physiological constraints that shape foraging patterns in marine mammals that are often neglected. This paper discusses the interaction of three broad physiological processes that impose limitations on foraging patterns: the physiological demands of prey acquisition (foraging), prey processing (digestion), and thermoregulation. The theoretical framework presented allows us to review and synthesize the complex physiological interactions that shape foraging behavior at the individual level. Observed foraging behavior is an integration of a multitude of competing demands on an animal. The aim of this framework is to enhance our understanding of these processes and direct areas of future research.
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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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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
 
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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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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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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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 vocal behaviour of mammal-eating killer whales (Orcinus orca): Communicating with costly calls.
Deecke, V.B., Ford, J.K.B., Slater, P.J.B. 2005.
Animal Behaviour 69:395-405.
abstract
The cost of vocal behaviour is usually expressed in energetic terms; however, many animals pay additional costs arising from predators or potential prey eavesdropping on their vocal communication. The northeastern Pacific is home to two distinct ecotypes of killer whales (Orcinus orca): resident killer whales feed on fish, a prey with poor hearing abilities, whereas transient killer whales hunt marine mammals, which 5 have sensitive underwater hearing at the frequencies of killer whale vocal communication. In this study, we investigated how the superior hearing ability of their prey has shaped the vocal behaviour of the transient ecotype. We recorded pulsed calls and the associated behavioural context of groups of transient and resident killer whales in British Columbia and southeastern Alaska. Transient killer whales emitted pulsed calls significantly less frequently than residents. Transient killer whales only exhibited significant amounts of vocal 10 behaviour after a marine mammal kill or when the whales where displaying surface-active behaviour. Vocal activity of transients increased after a successful attack on a marine mammal. Since marine mammals are able to detect killer whale pulsed calls and respond with anti-predator behaviour, the reduced vocal activity of transients is probably due to a greater cost for calling in this ecotype resulting from eavesdropping by potential prey. The increase in vocal behaviour after a successful attack may represent food calling (informing other animals in the area about the presence of food), but is more likely to reflect an increase in social interactions during feeding and/or the fact that the cost for vocal behaviour is comparatively low after a successful attack.
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Food web models and data for studying fisheries and environmental impacts on Eastern Pacific ecosystems.
Guénette, S., and V. Christensen. 2005.
Fisheries Centre Research Reports Vol 13(1) pp. 237
abstract
The North Pacific is a hot-bed for understanding how marine populations are impacted by humans as well as by environmental conditions. The 'Thompson-Burkenroad debate' has been ongoing since the late-1940s: what drives the marked fluctuations in Pacific halibut that has been observed over the past century' Dr William Thompson, who started up the work of the International Pacific Halibut Commission, IPHC, argued that the changes in halibut abundance could be fully explained by changes in fishing pressure, i.e. that they were the result of successful management on the part of IPHC, while his adversary, Dr Martin Burkenroad questioned if the populations trends could be accounted for by fishing pressure on its own, or if wasn't rather a question of environmental factors impacting halibut recruitment. While Thompson and Burkenroad actually never debated the relative role of fisheries and the environment ' indeed it may well be that they would actually agree that one factor in itself would not suffice to give us the full explanation their debate has lived on, and both sides still have proponents arguing for one over the other. Examining the Pacific halibut trends now, nearly 60 years after the debate started, still yields inconclusive answers only. We cannot name the culprit. The debate has widened since Thompson and Burkenroad's days, and we regularly hear about regime shifts in connection with the North Pacific. A notable debate in this context has emerged, seeking explanations for why the Steller sea lions have declined to become threatened in major parts of their North Pacific distribution area, while increasing in others. A multitude of explanations have been brought forward, and considerable research has been aimed at understanding the importance of nutritional conditions, of predators and of prey, of competition with commercial fisheries, of parasites and diseases, of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation Index, and of the potential impact of incidental culls, to mention some. As for the halibut, no conclusive explanation has emerged. Asking then, if the non-emergence of a single clear explanation may be due to the Steller sea lion being impacted by a combination of factors the North Pacific Universities Marine Mammal Research Consortium and the North Pacific Marine Science Foundation initiated a project 'Ecosystem analysis of Steller sea lion dynamics and their prey' through NOAA funding. The project, which was the brain child of Andrew Trites (Director of the Marine Mammal Research Unit, Fisheries Centre), employs ecosystem modelling of North Pacific ecosystems (Southeast Alaska, the Central Gulf of Alaska and the Western Aleutian Islands) in an attempt to evaluate (quantify) the relative role the various factors may have played in determining population trends. The methodologies applied for the modelling along with some of the preliminary findings from the study are described in this report. Notably, the models indicate that no single factor by itself can explain the population trends of Steller sea lion, several have to be invoked. In parallel to the work centered on Steller sea lion, the UBC 'Sea Around Us' project (www.seaaroundus.org) through funding from the Pew Charitable Trusts initiated a series of workshops aimed at evaluating the relative role of fisheries and environmental factors for North Pacific ecosystems. Bringing together researchers from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Pacific Biological Station, Nanaimo; the NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center, Seattle; the University of Washington, School of Fisheries, Seattle; and the University of British Columbia, Fisheries Centre, Vancouver, to analyze a series of ecosystems ranging from the Bering Sea to the Northern California Current, and coordinate the methodologies. We present descriptions of some studies in this report, while most of the findings are published separately. The present report also includes a reconstruction of North Pacific whale catches for the 20th century, which served to estimate the whale population at different periods in Southeast Alaska and the Western Aleutians. Finally, in the interest of preparing future work related to evaluating nutritional aspects of North Pacific ecosystems we have included a compilation of the energy content of invertebrates, fish and mammals in the Gulf of Alaska.
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Seasonal foraging movements and migratory patterns of female Lamna ditropis tagged in Prince William Sound, Alaska.
Hulbert, L.B., A.M. Aires-Da-Silva, V.F. Gallucci and J.S. Rice. 2005.
Journal of Fish Biology 67:490-509.
abstract
Conventional and electronic tags were used to investigate social segregation, distribution, movements and migrations of salmon sharks Lamna ditropis in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Sixteen salmon sharks were tagged with satellite transmitters and 246 with conventional tags following capture, and were then released in Prince William Sound during summer 1999 to 2001. Most salmon sharks sexed during the study were female (95%), suggesting a high degree of sexual segregation in the region. Salmon sharks congregated at adult Pacific salmon Oncorhynchus spp. migration routes and in bays near Pacific salmon spawning grounds in Prince William Sound during July and August. Adult Pacific salmon were the principal prey in 51 salmon shark stomachs collected during summer months in Prince William Sound, but the fish appeared to be opportunistic predators and consumed sablefish Anoplopoma fimbria, gadids, Pacific herring Clupea pallasi, rockfish Sebastes spp. and squid (Teuthoi dea) even when adult Pacific salmon were locally abundant. As Pacific salmon migrations declined in late summer, the salmon sharks dispersed; some continued to forage in Prince William Sound and the Gulf of Alaska into autumn and winter months, while others rapidly moved south-east thousands of kilometres toward the west coasts of Canada and the U.S. Three movement modes are proposed to explain the movement patterns observed in the Gulf of Alaska and eastern North Pacific Ocean: ‘focal foraging’ movements, ‘foraging dispersals’ and ‘direct migrations’. Patterns of salmon shark movement are possibly explained by spatio-temporal changes in prey quality and density, an energetic trade-off between prey availability and water temperature, intra-specific competition for food and reproductive success. Transmissions from the electronic tags also provided data on depth and water temperatures experienced by the salmon sharks. The fish ranged from the surface to a depth of 668 m, encountered water temperatures from 4.0 to 16.8 C and generally spent the most time above 40 m depth and between 6 and 14 C (60 and 73%, respectively).
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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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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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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.
Olawale, K.O., R.J. Petrell, D.G. Michelson and A.W. Trites. 2005.
Physiological Measurement 26:626-637.
abstract
To aid in the development of a long-range subcutaneous radio frequency identification tag to monitor the fate sea lion pups, the dielectric properties of the cranial skin of young female otariids, and possible test subjects of similar size and age, or pigs (Sus scrofa) and sheep (Ovis aries)were obtained over a frequency range of 0.1 to 10 GHz at the base of their heads where the tag will be implanted. The resulting curves were similar in shape to adult human skin data, but the values were generally lower. Between ubjects, variations were noted in all the species. Circuitry for the RF-ID tag is being designed to account for antenna detuning as a result of the lossy media or skin and he variation in dielectric properties.

keywords     Keywords: dielectric constant, dielectric loss, skin thickness,
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Examining the potential for nutritional stress in young Steller sea lions: physiological effects of prey composition.
Rosen, D.A.S. and A.W. Trites. 2005.
Journal of Comparative Physiology 175:265-273.
abstract
The effects of high- and low-lipid prey on the body mass, body condition, and metabolic rates of young captive Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) were examined to better understand how changes in prey composition might impact the physiology and health of wild sea lions and contribute to their population decline. Results of three feeding experiments suggest that prey lipid content did not significantly affect body mass or relative body condition (lipid mass as a percent of total mass) when sea lions could consume sufficient prey to meet their energy needs. However, when energy intake was insufficient to meet daily requirements, sea lions lost more lipid mass (9.16±1.80 kg±SE) consuming low-lipid prey compared with eating high-lipid prey (6.52±1.65 kg). Similarly, the sea lions lost 2.7±0.9 kg of lipid mass while consuming oil-supplemented pollock at maintenance energy levels but gained 5.2±2.7 kg lipid mass while consuming identical energetic levels of herring. Contrary to expectations, there was a 9.7±1.8% increase in metabolism during mass loss on submaintenance diets. Relative body condition decreased only 3.7±3.8% during periods of imposed nutritional stress, despite a 10.4±4.8% decrease in body mass. These findings raise questions regarding the efficacy of measures of relative body condition to detect such changes in nutritional status among wild animals. The results of these three experiments suggest that prey composition can have additional effects on sea lion energy stores beyond the direct effects of insufficient energy intake.
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Dietary analysis from fecal samples: how many scats are enough?
Trites, A.W. and Joy, R. 2005.
Journal of Mammalogy 86(4):704-712.
abstract
Diets of mammals are increasingly being inferred from identification of hard parts from prey eaten and recovered in fecal remains (scats). Frequencies with which particular prey species occur among collections of scats are easily compiled to describe the average diet, and can be used to compare diets between and within geographic regions, and across years and seasons. Important to these analyses is the question of statistical power. In other words, how many scats should be collected to compare the diet among and between species? We addressed this problem using Monte Carlo simulations to analytically determine the consequence of sample size on the dietary analysis of scats using frequency of occurrence methods. We considered two questions: 1) how is the statistical power affected by sample size; and 2) what is the likelihood of not identifying a prey species? We randomly sampled predetermined numbers of scats (n=10–200) from computer-generated populations of scats containing prey of known species and frequencies of occurrences. We also randomly sampled a large database of field-collected scats from Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus). We then used standard contingency table tests such as chi-square and Fisher’s exact test to determine whether differences between our samples and populations were statistically significant. We found a minimum size of 59 scats is necessary to identify principal prey remains occurring in >5% of scats. However, 94 samples are required when comparing diets to distinguish moderate effect sizes over time or between areas. These findings have significant implications for the interpretation of published dietary data, as well as for the design of future scat-based dietary studies for pinnipeds and other species.
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A novel approach to measuring heat flux in swimming animals.
Willis, K. , Horning, M. 2005.
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 315:147-162.
abstract
We present a design for long-term or removable attachment of heat flux sensors (HFSs) to stationary or swimming animals in water that enables collection of heat flux data on both captive and free-ranging pinnipeds. HFSs were modified to allow for independent, continuous, and long-term or removable attachment to study animals. The design was tested for effects of HFSs and the attachment mechanism on resultant heat flux. Effects were insulative and consistent across water temperatures and flow speeds, resulting in a correction factor of 3.42. This correction factor was applied to all measurements of heat flux from animal experiments to account for the thermal resistance of HFSs and insulative effects of the attachment mechanism. Heat flux and skin temperature data were collected from two captive Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) as they swam in a large habitat tank over time periods ranging from approximately 4 to 9 min. Of the 72 HFSs deployed using the attachm! ent mechanism, data were successfully retrieved from 70. The HFS attachment mechanism was also used on two wild free-ranging Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) off Ross Island, Antarctica, for up to 7 days. Heat flux data were retrieved from all eight sensors deployed. These results, along with those from Steller sea lions, suggest that HFSs can be deployed with success on captive and wild animals using the designed attachment mechanism.
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Spatial variation of heat flux in Steller sea lions: evidence for consistent avenues of heat exchange along the body trunk.
Willis, K., M. Horning, D.A.S. Rosen and A.W. Trites. 2005.
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 315:163-175.
abstract
Maintaining insulative fat stores is vital for homeothermic marine mammals foraging in cold polar waters. To accomplish this, animals must balance acquisition and expenditure of energy. If this balance is shifted, body condition can decrease, challenging thermal homeostasis and further affecting energy balance. Prior studies of temperature regulation in sea lions have neither quantified basic all-inclusive heat flux values for animals swimming in cold water, nor determined whether they exhibit consistent spatial patterns of heat flux. Heat flux and skin temperature data were thus collected from four captive Steller sea lions using heat flux sensors (HFSs) with embedded thermistors. Optimal sensor placement was established using infrared thermography to locate the major areas of heat flux along the surface of the animals. Experiments were conducted on swimming animals in a large habitat tank with and without a drag harness, and on stationary animals in a temperature- and current controlled swim flume. All heat flux measurements were corrected by a previously determined correction factor of 3.42 to account for insulative effects of the HFSs and attachment mechanism. Heat flux from shoulders and hips was consistently greater than from mid-trunk and axillary areas in both swimming and stationary animals, suggesting that certain areas of the body are preferentially used to offload excess heat. Mean heat flux for animals swimming with a drag harness was significantly greater than for unencumbered animals, indicating a likely increase in heat production beyond minimum heat loss. Thus, thermal stress does not appear to constitute significant costs for Steller sea lions swimming under conditions of increased drag at speeds of approximately 1 m/s in water temperatures of approximately 8.0 °C.
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2004
 
Acoustic characteristics of forage fish species in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea based on Kirchhoff-approximation models.
Gauthier, S. and J.K. Horne. 2004.
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 61:1839-1850.
abstract
Acoustic surveys are routinely used to assess fish abundance. To ensure accurate population estimates, the characteristics of echoes from constituent species must be quantified. Kirchhoff-ray mode (KRM) backscatter models were used to quantify acoustic characteristics of Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska pelagic fish species: capelin (Mallotus villosus), Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii), walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma), Atka mackerel (Pleurogrammus monopterygius), and eulachon (Thaleichthys pacificus). Atka mackerel and eulachon do not have swimbladders. Acoustic backscatter was estimated as a function of insonifying frequency, fish length, and body orientation relative to the incident wave front. Backscatter intensity and variance estimates were compared to examine the potential to discriminate among species. Based on relative intensity differences, species could be separated in two major groups: fish with gas-filled swimbladders and fish without swimbladders! The effects of length and tilt angle on echo intensity depended on frequency. Variability in target strength (TS) resulting from morphometric differences was high for species without swimbladders. Based on our model predictions, a series of TS to length equations were developed for each species at the common frequencies used by fisheries acousticians.
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Potential acoustic discrimination within a boreal fish assemblage.
Gauthier, S. and J.K. Horne. 2004.
ICES Journal of Marine Science 61:836-845.
abstract
Differences in the acoustic characteristics of forage fish species in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea were examined using Kirchhoff ray-mode (KRM) backscatter models. Our goal was to identify species-specific characteristics and metrics that facilitate the discrimination of species using acoustic techniques. Five fish species were analyzed: capelin (Mallotus villosus), Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii), walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma), Atka mackerel (Pleurogrammus monopterygius), and eulachon (Thaleichthys pacificus). Backscatter amplitude differences exist among these species, especially between swimbladdered and non-swimbladdered fish. Echo intensities were variable within and among species. The effect of morphological variability was indexed using the ratio of the Reducedscattering length (RSL) standard deviation over its mean. Morphological variability was low only at fish length to acoustic wavelength ratios less than eight. Target strength differences between pairs of carrier frequencies (ranging from 12 kHz to 200 kHz) differed among species, and were dependent on fish size and body orientation. Frequency differencing successfully discriminated between fish species but the choice of frequency to maximize target strength differences was not consistent among species pairs. Frequencydependent, backscatter model predictions facilitate comparison of target strength differences prior to acoustic data collection.
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Effects of body condition on resting metabolism in captive and free-ranging Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
Hoopes, L.A., L.D. Rea, D.A.S. Rosen and G.A.J. Worthy. 2004.
Symposia of the Comparative Nutrition Society 2004 5:79-82.
abstract
The objectives of this study were to compare Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) from animals in the eastern and western Alaskan populations to discern whether there is any evidence of nutritional stress. Oxygen consumption data were collected from captive Steller sea lions held at the Vancouver Aquarium, Vancouver, BC and from free-ranging Steller sea lions captured from western and eastern Alaskan stocks. In water, RMR ranged from 33.3 to 56.7 MJ/day for sub-adult animals (109-158 kg, 2.9-4.6 times predicted for an adult animal) and from 20.0 to 26.6 MJ/day for pups (57-59 kg, 3.3-4.3 times predicted) at 2°C. RMR, generally decreased with increasing water temperature, but the relationship was not statistically significant. Reduced body condition had a noticeable impact on RMR in juvenile sea lions at colder water temperatures. The results of the present study suggest that young sea lions would be subject to even greater thermoregulatory demands if their body condition were reduced.
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Validation of a fecal glucocorticoid assay for Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
Hunt, K.E., A.W. Trites, and S.K. Wasser. 2004.
Physiology and Behavior 80:595-601.
abstract
The Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) is listed as endangered in parts of its range and is suspected of suffering from ecological stressors that may be reflected by fecal glucocorticoid hormones. We validated a fecal glucocorticoid assay for this species with an adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) challenge. Feces were collected from captive Steller sea lions (two males and two females) for 2 days before injection with ACTH, and for 4 or more days postinjection. Feces were freeze-dried, extracted with a methanol vortex method, and assayed for glucocorticoids. The assay demonstrated good parallelism and accuracy. All animals showed the expected peak of fecal glucocorticoid excretion after ACTH injection. However, the two males had higher baselines, higher peaks, and more delayed peaks than the females. Peak glucocorticoid excretion occurred at 5 and 28 h postinjection for the two females, and at 71 and 98 h for the two males. Correction for recoveries by the addition of tritiated hormones produced ACTH profiles that were virtually identical in pattern to uncorrected data, but with higher within-sample coefficients of variation. Based on these results, we conclude that this fecal glucocorticoid assay accurately reflects endogenous adrenal activity of Steller sea lions, and that recovery corrections are not necessary for this species when using the methanol vortex extraction method. More research is needed to address possible sex differences and other possible influences on fecal glucocorticoid concentrations.
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Season variation in nutrient composition of Alaskan walleye pollock.
Kitts, D. D., Huynhl,M. D., Hu, C. and Trites, A.W. 2004.
Canadian Journal of Zoology 82:1408-1415.
abstract
A popular hypothesis for the noted steady decline in the population of Steller sea lions in the regions from Prince William Sound through the Aleutian Islands relates to their nutritional status. Sea lion diets appear to have shifted from primarily small schooling fatty fishes to low fat fish such as walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma). We examined the seasonal changes in proximate nutrients of pollock collected in the Bering Sea. Mean energy density (dry-weight) of pollock peaked in October then declined and remained low throughout winter. Energy recovery occurred in the summer months with strong recovery observed in female fish caught in July. Contrary to whole fish carcass energy contents, both total protein and moisture contents were at their highest levels in winter (January) when total crude lipid content was at its lowest (p<0.05). This trend gradually declined to its lowest levels in the fall, when lipid content was high. The decline in total lipi! ds during winter seasons appeared to parallel gonad development during the pre-spawning period. Sex differences in energy densities were not found. Nor did proximate analysis data for moisture, protein, ash and lipid content show any significant variation between males and females. Protein digestibility of pollock was higher (p<0.05) in the summer than in the spring, but not different for winter or fall seasons. We conclude that the nutrient content of pollock may have some impact on the Steller sea lions that feed on them, particularly the energetic value that appears to be low during important feeding periods for this marine mammal.
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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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Suckling attempts during winter by two non-filial Steller sea lion pups (Eumetopias jubatus).
Porter, B.T. and Trites, A.W. 2004.
Mammalia 63:23-26.
abstract
Milk stealing and fostering care is rare among mammals. Among pinnipeds, the nursing of offspring that are not their own has been noted for some species of seals, but rarely for sea lions or fur seals. Thousands of hours have been spent observing Steller sea lions in the wild, but only a few successful suckling attempts have been noted. From January to March 1996, we observed two non-filial pups repeatedly suckling lactating females at a winter haulout site at Timbered Island in southeast Alaska. These two observations are noteworthy because of their rarity and the bearing they have on the poorly understood process of weaning in Steller sea lions. The timing of weaning in Steller sea lions has been speculated to occur sometime during winter or spring when pups are 6 months or older. Both mothers and pups we observed were aggressive toward intruding conspecifics and were very protective of their mother’s teats. However, there was a range of individual variation in the tolerance of both mature females and their offspring to the distance they would allow strange pups near the teats. It is undoubtedly advantageous for nutritionally stressed pups to attempt to steal milk, compared with the alternative — starvation. However the potential for injury likely out-weighs any gain in resources and probably deters most young from attempting to approach strange females. The pups we observed stealing milk did not supplement their intake with fish despite the apparent ability of this age group to capture prey. The fact that they did not suggests that they may not have been behaviourally or physiologically capable of consuming fish. Compared with milk, they may also not be physically capable of consuming enough prey to meet their daily energy needs during this period of rapid growth and development. This further suggests that weaning of Steller sea lions pups may occur much later in spring or early summer than many have previously thought.
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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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Satiation and compensation for short-term changes in food quality and availability in young Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
Rosen, D.A.S. and Trites, A.W. 2004.
Canadian Journal of Zoology pp. 1061-1069.
abstract
Foraging theory predicts that animals should proportionately increase their food intake to compensate for reduced energy content and/or prey availability. However, the theoretical intake levels will – at some point – exceed the digestive capacity of the predator. We tested the ability of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus, Schreber, 1776) to compensate for short-term changes in prey energy density and availability, and quantified the maximum amount of food a young sea lion could consume. Five 1-2 year old captive Steller sea lions were alternately offered herring (high-energy) or capelin (low-energy) each day or every second day. When prey were available on a daily basis the sea lions compensated for differences in the energy content of herring and capelin by consuming sufficient quantities of each (8.3 vs. 14.0 kg d-1, respectively) to maintain an equivalent gross energy intake. When herring was available only on alternate days, the sea lions increased their consumption by 52% to 11.5 kg d-1, which was not sufficient to maintain an average gross intake equal to when herring was available every day. When capelin was available only on alternate days, some animals increased their intake for a few days, but average intake (15.2 kg d-1) was far below levels observed during daily feeding. Generally, the sea lions appeared to reach their digestive limit at a level equivalent to 14-16% of their body mass. Our findings suggest that Steller sea lions can alter their food intake in response to short-term changes in prey quality or availability, but that these variables can quickly combine to necessitate food intake levels that exceed the physiological digestive capacities of young animals.
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The effects of prey availability on pup mortality and the timing of birth of South American sea lions (Otaria flavescens) in Peru.
Soto, K., A.W. Trites, and M. Arias-Schreiber. 2004.
Journal of Zoology 264:419-428.
abstract
Pup mortality and the timing of birth of South American sea lions Otaria flavescens were investigated to determine the possible relationship between fluctuations in prey availability in the Peruvian upwelling ecosystem and current and future reproductive success of sea lions during six consecutive breeding seasons. Our study from 1997 to 2002 encompassed the strongest El Nino on record and one La Nina event. Pup mortality ranged from 13% before El Nino to 100% during El Nino, and was negatively correlated with prey availability. Abortions were also more frequent when prey availability was low. However, pup mortality remained high following El Ni~no due to the punctuated short-term effects it had on population dynamics and subsequent maternal behaviour. Births occurred later in the season after years of low food availability and earlier following years of high food availability. The peak of pupping coincided with the peak of mortality in all years, and may have ! been the product of intensive competition between bulls at the peak of the breeding season. The stronger and more frequent El Ninos that appear to be occurring along the Peruvian coast may produce significant stochastic changes in future births and pup mortality, which may place the vulnerable South American sea lion population in Peru at greater risk.
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Sizes of walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) consumed by the eastern stock of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in Southeast Alaska from 1994-1999.
Tollit, D.J., Heaslip, S.G. and Trites, A.W. 2004.
Fishery Bulletin 102(3):522-532.
abstract
Lengths of walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) consumed by Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) were estimated using allometric regressions applied to seven diagnostic cranial structures recovered from 531 scats collected in Southeast Alaska between 1994-1999. Selected structural measurements were corrected for loss of size due to erosion using experimentally derived condition-specific digestion correction factors. Correcting for digestion increased the estimated length of fish consumed by 23%, and the average mass of fish consumed by 88%. Mean corrected fork length (FL) of pollock consumed was 42.4 11.6 cm (range=10.0-78.1 cm, n=909). Adult pollock (>45.0 cm FL) occurred more frequently in scats collected from rookeries along the open ocean coastline of Southeast Alaska during June and July (74% adults, mean FL=48.4 cm) than they did in scats from haulouts located in inside waters between October and May (51% adults, mean FL=38.4 cm). Overall, the contribution of juvenile pollock (20 cm) to the sea lion diet was insignificant, while adults contributed 44% to the diet by number and 74% by mass. On average, larger pollock were eaten in summer at rookeries throughout Southeast Alaska than at rookeries in the Gulf of Alaska or the Bering Sea. Overall it appears that Steller sea lions are capable of consuming a wide size range of pollock, with the bulk of fish falling between 20-60 cm. The use of cranial hard parts other than otoliths and the application of digestion correction factors are fundamental to correctly estimating the sizes of prey consumed by sea lions and for determining their overlap with commercial fisheries.
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A method to improve size estimates of walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) and Atka mackerel (Pleurogrammus monopterygius) consumed by pinnipeds: digestion correction factors applied to bones and otoliths recovered in scats.
Tollit, D.J., Heaslip, S.G., Zeppelin, T.K., Joy, R., Call, K.A. and Trites, A.W. 2004.
Fishery Bulletin 102(3):498-508.
abstract
The lengths of otoliths and other skeletal structures recovered from the scats of pinnipeds, such as Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus), correlate with body size and can be used to estimate the length of prey consumed. Unfortunately, otoliths are often found in too few numbers or are too digested to usefully estimate prey size. Techniques are therefore required to account for the degree of digestion of alternative diagnostic bones prior to estimating prey size. We developed a method (using defined criteria and photo-reference material) to assign the degree of digestion for key cranial structures of two prey species (walleye pollock, Theragra chalcogramma and Atka mackerel, Pleurogrammus monopterygius). The method grades each structure into one of three condition categories; good, fair or poor. We also conducted captive feeding trials to determine the extent of erosion and derive condition-specific digestion correction factors to reconstruct the original sizes of the structures consumed. In general, larger structures were relatively more digested than smaller ones. Mean size reduction varied between different types of structures (3.3-26.3%), but was not influenced by the size of the prey consumed. Results from the observations and experiments were combined to reconstruct the size of prey consumed by sea lions and other pinnipeds. The proposed method has four steps: 1) measure the recovered structures and grade the extent of digestion using defined criteria and photo-reference collection; 2) exclude structures graded in poor condition; 3) multiply measurements of structures in good and fair condition by their appropriate digestion correction factors to derive their original size; and 4) calculate the size of prey from allometric regressions relating corrected structure measurements to body lengths. This technique can be readily applied to piscivore dietary studies that use fish hard remains.
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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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Sizes of walleye pollock and Atka mackerel consumed by the Western stock of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in Alaska from 1998-2000.
Zeppelin, T. K., Tollit, D.J., Call, K.A., Orchard, T. J. and Gudmundson, C. J. 2004.
Fishery Bulletin 102(3):509-521.
abstract
Prey size selectivity by Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) is relevant for understanding the foraging ecology of this declining predator, but studies have been problematic due to the erosion or absence of prey skeletal structures and otoliths usually used to estimate fish length. We developed regression formulae to estimate fish length from seven diagnostic cranial structures of walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) and Atka mackerel (Pleurogrammus monopterygius). For both species, all structure measurements were related with fork length of prey (r squared range: 0.78 - 0.99). Fork length of walleye pollock and Atka mackerel consumed by Steller sea lions was estimated by applying these regression models to cranial structures recovered from scats (feces) collected between 1998 and 2000 across the range of the Alaskan western stock of Steller sea lions. Experimentally derived digestion correction factors were applied to take into account loss of size due to digestion. Fork lengths (FL) of walleye pollock consumed by Steller sea lions ranged from 3.7 to 70.8 cm FL (mean = 1 39.3 cm, SD = 14.3 cm, n = 1 666) and Atka mackerel ranged from 15.3 to 49.6 cm FL (mean = 1 32.3 cm, SD = 5.9 cm, n = 1,685). Although sample sizes were limited, a greater proportion of juvenile (less than to 20 cm) walleye pollock were found in samples collected on summer (June - September) haul-out sites (64% juveniles, n = 1 11 scats) than on summer rookeries (9% juveniles, n = 1 132 scats) or winter (February - March) haul-out sites (3% juveniles, n = 1 69 scats). Annual changes in the size of Atka mackerel consumed by Steller sea lions corresponded to changes in the length distribution of Atka mackerel resulting from exceptionally strong year classes. Considerable overlap (> 51%) in the size composition of walleye pollock and Atka mackerel taken by Steller sea lions and the commercial trawl fishery was demonstrated.
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2003
 
Disease agents in Steller sea lions in Alaska: A review and analysis of serology data from 1975-2000.
Burek, K.A., F.M.D. Gulland, G. Sheffield, D. Calkins, E. Keyes, T.R. Spraker, A.W. Smith, D.E. Skilling, J. Evermann, J.L. Stott and A.W. Trites. 2003.
Fisheries Centre Reports Vol 11(4) pp. 26
abstract
Results of serology studies conducted from 1975-1996 on Alaskan populations of Steller sea lions(Eumetopias jubatus) were synthesized and supplemented with analyses of archived sera to assess the chronological and spatial patterns of exposure to disease agents and the role that infectious disease may have played in the decline of Steller sea lions in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands. Serum samples were obtained during three periods (1970s, 1980s and 1990s) and were tested for exposure to Leptospira interrogans, caliciviruses, Chlamydophila sittaci, Brucella sp, morbilliviruses, influenza A, oxoplasma gondii, phocid herpesviruses and canine parvovirus. Testing for these agents and canine adenoviruses 1 and 2 continued through 2000. In most cases, conclusions cannot be drawn about chronological changes in the prevalence of disease agents during the decline of Steller sea lions because the samples were not collected from all regions in each time period, nor from sufficient numbers of animals in each age class. In addition, samples were not all analyzed by the same laboratories, were not stored under controlled conditions, were not tested for the same disease agents, and assays were not validated for Steller sea lions.

There is no convincing evidence of significant exposure to influenza A, morbilliviruses, Brucella abortus, canine parvovirus and Leptospira sp. However, there is evidence of exposure to a herpesvirus, C. psittaci, caliciviruses, T. gondii and canine adenovirus in regions of both increasing and decreasing sea lion abundance. As these agents are either present throughout the areas examined, or were not evident in all of the animals examined, it is unlikely that these disease agents caused the population decline of sea lions by epidemic mortality. However, as the number of samples tested for morbillivirus is low, and the assays used have not been validated for Steller sea lions, exposure to a morbillivirus during the peak of the decline cannot be completely ruled out from the data available.

Some pathogens become endemic and interact with malnutrition or predation to decrease survival or reproduction—therefore preventing recovery of depleted populations. In other species, C. psittaci, herpesviruses, adenoviruses, and T. gondii are more readily expressed as clinical diseases when individuals are stressed. It is possible that these agents could be contributing to the lack of recovery by causing undetected mortality and morbidity, or by reducing fecundity and juvenile survival rates. A systematic disease agent monitoring protocol should therefore be initiated to adequately test for disease agents in different time periods and regions.

Serological studies are limited in that they only assess immunological response following exposure to infectious agents. They do not give information on the prevalence of disease agents, or on presence of clinical disease. Further sstudies should be aimed at detecting infectious agents directly, and determining their association with morbidity and mortality, as well as changes in host population dynamics.

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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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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., A.W. Trites and D.D. Kitts. 2003.
British Journal of Nutrition 89:71-82.
abstract
The decline of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in the Gulf of Alaska appears to have been associated with a switch of diet from one dominated by fatty forage fishes (such as her-ring; Clupea pallasi ) to one dominated by low-fat fish (such as pollock; Theragra chalco-gramma). Observations made during the decline include reduced body size of sea lions, low pregnancy rates, and high mortality. We used the general mammalian model, the laboratory rat (Rattus norvegicus ), to test whether changing the quality of prey consumed could cause changes in size and reproductive performance. Five groups of twelve fiale, weanling rats were fed diets composed of herring (H), pollock (P), pollock suppliented with herring oil (PH), pollock suppliented with pollock oil (PP), or a sii-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 (P 0·05). Food intakes before mating were 10 % higher for groups on the lower-fat diets (P and ICN), resulting in similar energy intakes in all groups. The protein efficiency ratio was highest for the H diet, slightly lower for all pollock diets, and significantly lower for ICN (P 0·05). The fetal weights for mothers fed P were significantly reduced (P 0·05). The present study shows that the energy content was a major limiting factor in the nutritional quality of pollock. When food intake was adjusted to meet energetic requirients, there were no detrimental consequences from eating pollock. However, supplientation 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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Examining the evidence for killer whale predation on Steller sea lions in British Columbia and Alaska.
Heise, K,. L.G. Barrett-Lennard, E. Saulitis, C. O. Matkin, D. Bain. 2003.
Aquatic Mammals 29:325-334.
abstract
The discovery of flipper tags from 14 Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in the stomach of a dead killer whale (Orcinus orca) in 1992 focused attention on the possible role of killer whale predation in the decline of Steller sea lions in western Alaska. In this study, mariners in British Columbia and Alaska were surveyed to determine the frequency and out-come of observed attacks on sea lions, the age classes of sea lions taken, and the areas where predatory attacks occurred. The 126 survey respondents described 492 killer whale/sea lion interactions, of which at least 32 were fatal attacks on the sea lion. The greatest rate of observed predation occurred in the Aleutian Islands. The stomach contents of dead and stranded whales also were examined. Stomachs that were not empty contained only fish or marine mammal remains, but not both. This supports earlier evidence of dietary segregation between fish-eating resident and marine mammal-eating transient killer whales in Alaska. Steller sea lion remains were found in two of 12 killer whale stomachs examined from Alaska between 1990 and 2001. Stomach contents fromtwo oVshore killer whales provided the first direct evidence that this third formof killer whale feeds on fish.
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Predicting metabolic rate from heart rate for juvenile Steller sea lions Eumetopias jubatus.
McPhee, J.M., D.A.S. Rosen, R.D. Andrews and A.W. Trites. 2003.
Journal of Experimental Biology 206:1941-1951.
abstract
The validity of using heart rate to estimate energy expenditure in free-ranging Steller sea lions Eumetopias jubatus was investigated by establishing whether there is a relationship between heart rate (fH) and oxygen consumption rate (V . O·) in captive sea lions while swimming and resting. Four trained Steller sea lions (2 males and 2 females; mass 87.4–194.4·kg; age 16 months– 3 years) were each equipped with a datalogger and two dorsal subcutaneous electrodes to record electrocardiograms from which fH was calculated. V . O· (measured using open-circuit respirometry) was simultaneously recorded while the previously fasted animals were at rest within an enclosed dry metabolic chamber or while they 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 V . O· (ml·h –1 ·kg –0.60 ) for all four animals was V . O·=(71.3fH±4.3)–(1138.5±369.6) (means ± S.E.M.) (r 2 =0.69, P<0.01). The relationship demonstrated between fH and V . O· while fasting suggests that heart rate can potentially be used to monitor energy consumption in free-ranging Steller sea lions. However, a short-term feeding experiment revealed no significant increase in heart rate following a 6·kg or 12·kg meal to match the observed increase in rate of oxygen consumption. This suggests that heart rate may not accurately reflect energy consumption during digestion events. Additional research should be conducted to further elucidate how the relationship between heart rate and oxygen consumption is affected by such factors as digestive state, stress and age.
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Maternal attendance patterns of lactating Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) from a stable and a declining population in Alaska.
Milette, L.L. and A.W. Trites. 2003.
Canadian Journal of Zoology 81:340-348.
abstract
Maternal attendance patterns of Alaskan Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) were compared during the summer breeding seasons in 1994 and 1995 at Sugarloaf Island (a declining population) and Lowrie Island (a stable population). Our goal was to determine whether there were differences in maternal attendance between the two populations that were consistent with the hypothesis that lactating Steller sea lions in the area of decline were food-limited during summer. Our a priori expectations were based on well-documented behavioural responses of otariids to reduced prey availability. We found that foraging trips were significantly shorter in the area of population decline, counter to initial predictions. The mean length of foraging trips in the declining area was 19.5 h compared with 24.9 h in the stable area. In contrast, the mean perinatal period (time between parturition and first feeding trip) was significantly longer in the area of decline (9.9 versus 7.9 days), again countering initial predictions. The mean length of shore visits for the declining population was also significantly longer (27.0 h compared with 22.6 h where the population was stable). For both populations, the mean time that mothers foraged increased as pups grew older, whereas the time that they spent on shore with their pups became shorter. Behavioural observations of maternal attendance patterns are inconsistent with the hypothesis that lactating Steller sea lions from the declining population had difficulty obtaining prey during summer.
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No evidence for bioenergetic interaction between digestion and thermoregulation in Steller sea lions, Eumetopias jubatus.
Rosen, D.A.S. and A.W. Trites. 2003.
Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 76(6):899-906.
abstract
The increase in metabolism during digestion—the heat increment of feeding—is often regarded as an energetic waste product. However, it has been suggested that this energy could offset thermoregulatory costs in cold environments. We investigated this possibility by measuring the rate of oxygen consumption of four juvenile Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) before and after they ingested a meal in water temperatures of 2-8 degrees C. Rates of oxygen consumption of fasted and fed animals increased in parallel with decreasing water temperature, such that the apparent heat increment of feeding did not change with water temperature. These results suggest that Steller sea lions did not use the heat released during digestion to offset thermoregulatory costs.
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Sequential megafaunal collapse in the North Pacific Ocean: An ongoing legacy of industrial whaling?
Springer, A.M. , J. A. Estes , G. B. van Vliet , T. M. Williams, D. F. Doak, E. M. Danner, K. A. Forney, and B. Pfister. 2003.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 100:12223-12228.
abstract
Populations of seals, sea lions, and sea otters have sequentially collapsed over large areas of the northern North Pacific Ocean and southern Bering Sea during the last several decades. A bottom-up nutritional limitation mechanism induced by physical oceano-graphic change or competition with fisheries was long thought to be largely responsible for these declines. The current weight of evidence is more consistent with top-down forcing. Increased predation by killer whales probably drove the sea otter collapse and may have been responsible for the earlier pinniped declines as well. We propose that decimation of the great whales by post-World War II industrial whaling caused the great whales’ foremost natural predators, killer whales, to begin feeding more intensively on the smaller marine mammals, thus ‘‘fishing-down’’ this element of the marine food web. The timing of these events, information on the abundance, diet, and foraging behavior of both predators and prey, and feasibility analyses based on demographic and energetic modeling are all consistent with this hypothesis. food web dynamics brought about by human overharvesting initiated the change.
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Quantifying errors associated with using prey skeletal structures from fecal samples to determine the diet of the Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus).
Tollit, D.J., M. Wong, A.J. Winship, D.A.S. Rosen and A.W. Trites. 2003.
Marine Mammal Science pp. 724-744.
abstract
We examined the digestion and passage times of bones and other hard parts from pollock, herring, salmon, and sandlance recovered from two juvenile captive Steller's sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) subjected to varying activity levels. Key bones that could be identified to species were distributed over an average of 3.2 scats (range 1–6) following a single meal, with pollock remains occurring in significantly more scats than other species. Relying on otoliths alone to determine the presence of prey resulted in significantly fewer prey being identified than if other structures were also used (such as vertebrae, jaw bones, and teeth), particularly for salmon. Using either technique, there were significant differences in the likelihood that bones would be recovered from the series of scats produced following a meal, with pollock recovery exceeding herring (by three-fold) and sandlance (by eight-fold). Differences between species were reduced when recovery was calculated on a per scat basis rather than over multiple scats. Active animals passed greater numbers of bones, but the overall effect on prey recovery estimates was not significant. Defecation times of prey structures from a meal were variable and ranged from an initial 2–56 h to a final 28–148 h. The time interval to pass 95% of recovered structures varied by a factor of two among prey species, and was highest for pollock due to retention beyond 65 h.
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Food webs in the ocean: who eats whom, and how much?
Trites, A.W. 2003.
In M. Sinclair and G. Valdimarsson (eds), Responsible Fisheries in the Marine Ecosystem. FAO, Rome and CABI Publishing, Wallingford. pp. 125-143.
abstract
Over 100 food webs have been published for marine cosystems to describe the transfer of food energy from its source in plants,through herbivores,to carnivores and higher order predators.The webs suggest that the lengths of the chains that form food webs are typically short (3 –4 links),and that ecosystems with long food chains may be less stable than those with shorter food chains.

Stomach contents have been the primary means for determining what marine organisms eat.More recently developed techniques include faecal analysis and fatty acid signatures from blood or fat samples. Consumption has been estimated from the volume of food found in stomachs,from the feeding rates of captive individuals and from bioenergetic modelling.Consumption of marine organisms,expressed as a percentage of an individual ’s body weight per day,ranges from about 4 –15% or zooplankton,to 1 –4% for cephalopods,1 –2%for fish,3 –5% or marine mammals and 15 –20%for sea birds.Immature age classes consume about twice as much (per unit of body weight)as do mature individuals. Furthermore,consumption is not constant throughout the year,but varies with seasonal periods of growth and reproduction.Most groups of species consume 3 –10 times more than they produce,and export or pass up the food web about 70 –95%of their production. Marine organisms tend to be larger at successive trophic levels and are limited in the sizes of food they can consume. Humans are one of the few species that can prey uponalmost any level of the food chain and any size of prey.

Food web analysis and estimates of consumption are essential for understanding which ecosystems can support additional species,and which may be less stable and susceptible to species loss through the synergistic effects of fishing or culling.They are also critical tools for understanding changes in ecosystem dynamics as highlighted by a case study from the eastern Bering Sea.

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The decline of Steller sea lions in Alaska: A review of the nutritional stress hypothesis.
Trites, A.W. and C.P. Donnelly. 2003.
Mammal Review 33:3-28.
abstract

1. The decline of Steller sea lions Eumetopias jubatus in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands between the late 1970s and 1990s may have been related to reduced availability of suitable prey. Many studies have shown that pinnipeds and other mammals suffering from nutritional stress typically exhibit reduced body size, reduced productivity, high mortality of pups and juveniles, altered blood chemistry and specific behavioural modifications.

2. Morphometric measurements of Steller sea lions through the 1970s and 1980s in Alaska indicate reduced body size. Reduced numbers of pups born and an apparent increase in juvenile mortality rates also appear to be nutritionally based. Blood chemistry analyses have further shown that Steller sea lions in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands area exhibited signs of an acute phase reaction, or immune reaction, in response to unidentified physical and/or environmental stress. Behavioural studies during the 1990s have not noted any changes that are indicative of an overall shortage in the quantity of prey available to lactating female sea lions.

3. The data collected in Alaska are consistent with the hypothesis that Steller sea lions in the declining regions were nutritionally compromised because of the relative quality of prey available to them (chronic nutritional stress), rather than because of the overall quantity of fish per se (acute nutritional stress). This is further supported by captive studies that indicate the overall quality of prey that has been available to Steller sea lions in the declining popu-lation could compromise the health of Steller sea lions and hinder their recovery.


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Prey consumption of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) off Alaska: how much prey do they require?
Winship, A.J. and A.W. Trites. 2003.
Fishery Bulletin 101:147-163.
abstract
The effects of seasonal and regional differences in diet composition on the food requirements of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus)were estimated by using a bioenergetic model. The model considered differences in the energy density of the prey, and differences in digestive effciency and the heat increment of feeding of different diets. The model predicted that Steller sea lions in southeast Alaska required 45–60% more food per day in early spring (March) than after the breeding season in late summer (August) because of seasonal changes in the energy density of the diets (along with seasonal changes in energy require ments).The southeast Alaska population,at 23,000 (±1660 SD)animals (all ages), consumed an estimated 140,000 (±27,800) of prey in 1998. In contrast, we estimated that the 51,000 (±3680) animals making up the western Alaska population in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands consumed just over twice this amount (303,000 [±57,500 ] t). In terms of biomass removed in 1998 from Alaskan waters,we estimated that Steller sea lions accounted for about 5% of the natural mortality of gadids (pollock and cod) and up to 75% of the natural mortality of hexagram mids (adult Atka mackerel).These two groups of species were consumed in higher amounts than any other.The predicted average daily food require ment per individual ranged from 16 (±2.8)to 20 (±3.6)kg (all ages com bined). Per capita food requirements differed by as much as 24% between regions of Alaska depending on the rel ative amounts of low–energy-density prey (e.g.gadids)versus high–energy density prey (e.g. forage fish and salmon)consumed. Estimated require ments were highest in regions where Steller sea lions consumed higher proportions of low—energy-density prey and experienced the highest rates of population decline.
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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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Ecological effects of regime shifts in the Bering Sea and eastern North Pacific Ocean.
Benson, A.J. and A.W. Trites. 2002.
Fish and Fisheries 3:95-113.
abstract
Large-scale shifts occurred in climatic and oceanic conditions in 1925, 1947, 1977, 1989 and possibly 1998. These shifts affected the mix and abundance of suites of coexisting species during each period of relative environmental stability- from primary producers to apex predators. However, the 1989 regime shift was not a simple reversal of the 1977 shift. The regime shifts occurred abruptly and were neither random variations nor simple reversals to the previous conditions. Timing of these anomalous environmental events in the North Pacific Ocean appears to be linked to physical and biological responses in other oceanic regions of the world. Changes in the atmospheric pressure can alter wind patterns that affect oceanic circulation and physical properties such as salinity and depth of the thermocline. This, in turn, affects primary and secondary production. Data from the North Pacific indicate that regime shifts can have opposite effects on species living in different domains, or can affect similar species living within a single domain in opposite ways. Climatic forcing appears to indirectly affect fish and marine mammal populations through changes in the distribution and abundance of their predators and prey. Effects of regime shifts on marine ecosystems are also manifested faster at lower trophic levels. Natural variability in the productivity of fish stocks in association with regime shifts indicates that new approaches to managing fisheries should incorporate climatic as well as fisheries effects.
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Acoustic identification of female Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
Campbell, G.S., R.C. Gisiner, D.A. Helweg and L.L. Milette. 2002.
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 111:2920-2928.
abstract
Steller sea lion Eumetopias jubatus mothers and pups establish and maintain contact with individually distinctive vocalizations. Our objective was to develop a robust neural network to classify females based on their mother-pup contact calls. We catalogued 573 contact calls from 25 females in 1998 and 1323 calls from 46 females in 1999. From this database, a subset of 26 females with sufficient samples of calls was selected for further study. Each female was identified visually by marking patterns, which provided the verification for acoustic identification. Average logarithmic spectra were extracted for each call, and standardized training and generalization datasets created for the neural network classifier. A family of backpropagation networks was generated to assess relative contribution of spectral input bandwidth, frequency resolution, and network architectural variables to classification accuracy. The network with best overall generalization accuracy 71% used an input representation of 0–3 kHz of bandwidth at 10.77 Hz/bin frequency resolution, and a 2:1 hidden:output layer neural ratio. The network was analyzed to reveal which portions of the call spectra were most influential for identification of each female. Acoustical identification of distinctive female acoustic signatures has several potentially important conservation applications for this endangered species, such as rapid survey of females present on a rookery.
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Direct effects of experimental harvest on red sea urchin populations in San Juan Channel, Washington.
Carter, S.K. and G.R. VanBlaricom. 2002.
Fishery Bulletin Vol 100
abstract
Commercial harvest of red sea urchins began in Washington state in 1971. Harvests peaked in the late 1980s and have since declined substantially in Washington and other areas of the U.S. west coast. We studied effects of experimental harvest on red sea urchins in San Juan Channel (SJC), a marine reserve in northern Washington. We recorded changes in density and size distribution of sea urchin populations resulting from three levels of experimental harvest: 1) annual size-selective harvest (simulating current commercial urchin harvest regulations), 2) monthly complete (non-size-selective) harvest, and 3) no harvest (control) sites. We also examined re-colonization rates of harvested sites. The red sea urchin population in SJC is composed of an accumulation of large, old individuals. Juvenile urchins represent less than 1% of the population. Lower and upper size limits for commercial harvest protect 5% and 45% of the population, respectively. Complete harvest reduced sea urchin densities by 95%. Annual size-selective harvest significantly decreased sea urchin densities by 67% in the first year and 47% in the second year. Two years of size-selective harvest significantly altered the size distribution of urchins, decreasing the density of legal-size urchins. Recolonization of harvested sites varied seasonally and occurred primarily through immigration of adults. Selective harvest sites were recolonized to 51% and 38% of original densities, respectively, six months after the first and second annual harvests. Yields declined substantially in the second year of size-selective harvest because of the fishing down of the population and because of low recolonization rates of harvested sites. We recommend that managers consider the potential efficacy of marine harvest refuges and reevaluate the existing upper and lower size limits for commercial harvest to improve long-term management of the sea urchin fishery in Washington.
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Classifying prey hard part structures recovered from fecal remains of captive Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus).
Cottrell, P.E. and A.W. Trites. 2002.
Marine Mammal Science 18:525-539.
abstract
Feces were collected from six Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) that consumed known amounts of Atka mackerel (Pleurogrammus monopterygius), Pacific herring (Clupea harengus), pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha), walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma), and squid (Loligo opalacens). The goal was to determine the numbers and types of taxon-specific hard parts that pass through the digestive tract and to develop correction factors for certain abundantly occurring structures. Over 20,000 fish and squid were consumed during 267 d of fecal collection. During this period, over 119,000 taxon-specific hard parts, representing 56 different structures, were recovered. Skeletal structures and non-skeletal structures accounted for 72% and 28% of all hard parts respectively. The branchiocranium, axial skeleton, and dermocranium regions of the skeletal system accounted for the greatest number of hard parts recovered. Over 70% of all recovered hard parts were represented by one to six taxa specific structures for each prey type. The average number of hard parts (3.1-3.12) and structure types (2.0-17.7) recovered per individual prey varied across taxa and were used to derive correction factors (to reconstruct original prey numbers). A measure of the variability of hard part recovery among sea lions showed no difference for certain herring, pollock, and squid structures, however, there was a significant difference for salmon and Atka mackerel structures. Identifying all taxon-specific prey hard parts increases the likelihood of identifying and estimating the number of prey consumed.
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Diets of fin, sei and sperm whales in British Columbia: an analysis of commercial whaling records, 1963-1967.
Flinn, R.D., A.W. Trites, E.J. Gregr and I. Perry. 2002.
Marine Mammal Science 18:663-679.
abstract
Diets of fin (Balaenoptera physalus), sei (Balaenoptera borealis), and sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) were estimated from the stomach contents of individuals killed along the British Columbia coast from 1963 to 1967. The dominant prey types of fin whales were euphausiids, with minor contributions from copepods and fish. Sei whale stomachs contained primarily copepods in three years, whereas euphausiids or a variety of fish dominated the diet in the other two years. Sperm whales consumed primarily North Pacific giant squid (Moroteuthis robusta), but secondary prey differed between males and females. Female sperm whales frequently consumed ragfish (Icosteus spp.) and other fish, whereas the male diet also contained rockfish (Sebastes spp.). The high abundance of euphausiids along the British Columbia coast likely contributed to the presence of a summer resident population of fin whales. The high abundance of large copepods farther north probably influenced the migration of sei whales through the offshore waters of British Columbia. Sperm whale stomach contents differed by sex reflecting location and possibly breeding behaviors.
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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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Killer whales and predation on Steller sea lions.
Matkin, C.G., L. Barrett-Lennard and G. Ellis. 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.
abstract
The western stock of Steller sea lions has declined from over 140,000 individuals in the 1960s to possibly fewer than 40,000 individuals in 2000. The primary hypotheses put forth by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) explaining this decline centers around food limitation.One alternative hypothesis that has recently received attention is that the decline or lack of recovery is due to the effects of predation by killer whales or sharks.Reports of large numbers of killer whales surrounding longline and trawl fishing vessels in western Alaska suggest that there are many killer whales in the region. In order to assess the impact of killer whale predation on this popula- tion decline,we need the following information:

1.Number of Steller sea lions.

2.Intrinsic growth rate of Steller sea lion population.

3.Number of killer whales that prey on Steller sea lions.

4.Percentage of the killer whale diet that consists of Steller sea lions and age class of sea lion that is consumed.



keywords     Predation
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Cost of transport in Steller sea lions, Eumetopias jubatus.
Rosen, D.A.S. and A.W. Trites. 2002.
Marine Mammal Science 18:513-524.
abstract
The cost of swimming is a key component in the energy budgets of marine mammals. Unfortunately, data to derive predictive allometric equations are limited, and estimates exist for only one other species of otariid. Our study measured the oxygen consumption of three juvenile Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) swimming in a flume tank at velocities up to 2.2 m sec-1. Minimum measured cost of transport ranged from 3.5-5.3 J kg-1, m-1, and was reached at swimming speeds of 1.7-2.1 m s-1. These cost-of-transport values are higher than those reported for other marine mammals. However, once differences in stationary metabolic rate were accounted for, the locomotor costs (LC) for the Steller sea lions were commensurate with those of other marine mammals. Locomotor costs (LC in J m-1) appeared to be directly proportional to body mass (M in kg) such that LC = 1.651M1.01. These estimates for the cost of locomotion can be incorporated into bioenergetic models and used to determine the energetic consequences of observed swimming behavior in wild marine mammals.
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Changes in metabolism in response to fasting and food restriction in the Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus).
Rosen, D.A.S. and A.W. Trites. 2002.
Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology. 132:389-399.
abstract
Many animals lower their resting metabolism (metabolic depression) when fasting or consuming inadequate food. We sought to document this response by subjecting five Steller sea lions to periods of: (1) complete fasting; or (2) restricting them to 50% of their normal herring diet. The sea lions lost an average of 1.5% of their initial body mass per day (2.30 kg y d )during the 9 –14-day fast, and their resting metabolic rates decreased 31%, which is typical of a ‘fasting response ’. However, metabolic depression did not occur during the 28-day food restriction trials,despite the loss of 0.30% of body mass per day (0.42 kg y d). This difference in response suggests that undernutrition caused by reduced food intake may stimulate a ‘hunger response ’, which in turn might lead to increased foraging effort. The progressive changes in metabolism we observed during the fasts were related to, but were not directly caused by, changes in body mass from control levels. Combining these results with data collected from experiments when Steller sea lions were losing mass on low energy squid and pollock diets reveals a strong relationship between relative changes in body mass and relative changes in resting metabolism across experimental conditions.While metabolic depression caused by fasting or consuming large amounts of low energy food reduced the direct costs from resting metabolism, it was insufficient to completely overcome the incurred energy deficit.
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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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Predator-prey relationships.
Trites, A.W. 2002.
In W.F. Perrin, B. Wursig and H.G.M. Thewissen (eds), Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals. Academic Press, San Diego. pp. 994-997.
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 if 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 out-competing them. They can also indirectly affect the abundance o