Seasonal occurrence and diet of leopard seals (Hydrurga leptonyx) at Bird Island, South Georgia

Antarctic Science (Impact Factor: 1.63). 02/1998; 10(01):75 - 81. DOI: 10.1017/S0954102098000108

ABSTRACT Seasonal haul-out patterns and diet of individually marked leopard seals (Hydrurga
leptonyx) were investigated at Bird Island, South Georgia during the 1983–96 winters. A total of 2956 leopard seal sightings were made, and 121 seals were tagged during the study, mainly between 1993 and 1996. Photographs of scars and pelage patterns were also used to identify a subset of these individuals across years, which provided no evidence of tag loss between or within years. Leopard seals were observed between April and November; the mean time between the first and last sightings in each year was 208 d (s d ± 48). Between 1993–96, eight seals were resident around the island for more than 100 d, and the longest recorded residence was 130 d. The proportion of tagged seals resighted was 0.35 and 0.17 in 1995 and 1996 respectively. Based on estimates of body length, <5% of the seals were juveniles (0–1 years) and >70% were not sexually mature. There was considerable inter-annual variation in abundance, with a maximum of 502 sightings during 1994, compared with a minimum of 21 during 1986 and 1989. Antarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus
gazella) were the main prey item (58% of kills observed and 53% of scats). Other items included penguins (28% of kills observed and 20% of scats) and fish (24% of scats). Antarctic krill (Euphausia
superba), southern elephant seals (Mirounga
leonina) and seabirds other than penguins were also present in the diet in small quantities.

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    ABSTRACT: The analysis of prey overlap among Weddell, Antarctic fur and leopard seals was conducted using fecal samples collected at the Danco Coast, Antarctic Peninsula, in 1998 and 2000. The re-occurrence of prey species was moderate in samples collected in 1998, and low in 2000, and reflects resource partitioning among seal species. Prey species that mostly co-occurred in seals’ diet were the Antarctic krill Euphausia superba, bivalves, and the myctophids Gymnoscopelus nicholsi and Electrona antarctica. A dietary similarity index of prey overlap has been calculated and demonstrates evident fluctuations in pairwise comparisons between the seal species. The highest and lowest values of prey overlap were observed between Antarctic fur seals and leopard seals, and between Weddell seals and leopard seals, respectively. Prey overlap between Antarctic fur seals and Weddell seals was moderate in both seasons. KeywordsPrey overlap–Antarctic seals–Diet composition–Antarctic Peninsula
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