Shift in foraging ground and diet broadening during ontogeny in southern elephant seals from Kerguelen islands

Abstract : Highly dimorphic species like southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina, SES hereafter) frequently exhibit resource partitioning according to sex and/or age classes. We measured carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes (δ13C and δ15N) of 404 blood samples (136 males and 268 females from Kerguelen Islands, 49°21′S, 70°18′E) from 2004 to 2011. Assuming that the distribution of carbon isotopes (δ13C value) reflects the two main foraging grounds (Polar Frontal and Antarctic Zones), we quantified the proportion of SES foraging within each zone in relation with size, a proxy for their age. We found a clear shift from Polar Frontal to Antarctic waters as male SES aged, but no relation as far as females is concerned. We also observed a widening range of nitrogen isotopic (δ15N) values, suggesting that both males and females expanded their diet spectra with age. Whereas males increased their trophic level, females remained constant on average, with some adult females feeding both at lower and at higher trophic levels than juveniles.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 10:47:48 AM
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Adrien Chaigne, Matthieu Authier, Pierre Richard, Yves Cherel, Christophe Guinet. Shift in foraging ground and diet broadening during ontogeny in southern elephant seals from Kerguelen islands. Marine Biology, Springer Verlag, 2013, 160, pp.977-986. ⟨10.1007/s00227-012-2149-5⟩. ⟨hal-00624915⟩

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