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Ocean warming causes elephant seals to dive deeper
Date:2/9/2012

nimals dive. When the animal resurfaces to breathe the transmitters send their data to the respective research institutes via satellite. The results show that the elephant seals need to dive deeper in warmer water so that they ultimately have less time to actually search for food. "We therefore assume that the animals will find less prey in warmer water masses", explains Joachim Pltz.

The scientists from Bremerhaven will be going back to Marion Island in April of this year to collect evidence for their theory. This time they wish to equip the animals with a "jaw movement" sensor which has been developed by Japanese biologists at the National Institute of Polar Research in Tokyo. It is not much larger than a small finger and notices when the seal opens its mouth. "So far we can only derive from the dive profile whether an elephant seal was probably following a fish swarm. With this new measuring device we learn whether he has actually eaten", says Joachim Pltz.

Using this forage data the AWI biologists wish to draw conclusions as to the spatial and temporal distribution of particularly productive zones in the South Polar Sea. "The food in the sea is unevenly distributed. It is not worth the seals fishing anywhere and at any time. With the new data we hope to see the routes taken by the elephant seals of Marion Island and the water levels in which they find food", says Horst Bornemann.

The scientists also take days of walking over the "island of horizontal rain" into the bargain to achieve their research goal. "The elephant seals of Marion Island are very loyal to their location. They return to this island time and again to moult and mate. This behaviour gives us the opportunity to consistently fit measuring devices to the same animals thereby gaining an insight into the movement patterns of individual animals. Their movement and dive routes help us to find out where the oceanic food grounds of the Marion Island elephant seals are located",
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Contact: Sina Lschke
medien@awi.de
49-047-148-312-008
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert

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