Development of diving by harbor seal pups in two regions of Alaska: Use of the water column

  • Frost K
  • Simpkins M
  • Small R
 et al. 
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Abstract

Satellite-linked dive recorders were attached to 53 harbor seal pups in Prince William Sound (PWS) and at Tugidak Island, Alaska, during 1997–1999. We used generalized additive models and bootstrap techniques to describe pup diving behavior during their first year of life. Pups increased their ability to dive dur- ing the first 3–6 mo, as indicated by increases in proportion of time in the water (time wet) and maximum dive depth achieved by a pup each day (max-depth) values. Time wet and/or max-depth later decreased, suggesting a seasonal compo- nent to diving behavior. Monthly time wet varied from an overall minimum of 0.68 at tagging in July to a maximum of 0.89 in November. Pups spent half of their time wet swimming in water 60–70 m. This strongly suggests they were not feeding on or near bottom during their first year. Average max- depths and deepest actual dives were similar for PWS and Tugidak pups. PWS pups dove deeper sooner and spent less time wet than Tugidak pups during the first few months after tagging, probably as a result of regional bathymetric differ- ences. Diving behavior and body condition suggest that food availability was not likely a major factor in the population decline in PWS during the period of this study.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Alaska
  • Diving
  • Generalized additive models
  • Harbor seal
  • Phoca vitulina richardsi
  • Pup
  • Satellite-linked dive recorder

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Authors

  • Kathryn J. Frost

  • Michael A. Simpkins

  • Robert J. Small

  • Lloyd F. Lowry

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