• distribution of feeding;
  • grey seals;
  • meal frequency;
  • predators;
  • sex differences


  • 1
    We studied feeding frequency in free-ranging grey seals using stomach temperature telemetry to test if previously reported sex differences in the diving, movement and diet were reflected in the temporal pattern of foraging success.
  • 2
    Data were retrieved from 21 of 32 grey seals from 1999 to 2001, totalling 343 days and 555 feeding events, with individual record length varying from 2 to 40 days (mean: 16·33 ± 2·67 days/seal).
  • 3
    Seals fed on 57·8 ± 6·46% of days sampled and had an average of 1·7 ± 0·26 meals per day, but individual variability was apparent in the temporal distribution of feeding as evidenced by high coefficients of variation (coefficient of variation = 69·0%).
  • 4
    Bout analysis of non-feeding intervals of six grey seals suggests that feeding intervals of individuals were varied and probably reflect differences in prey availability. Grey seals tended to have many single feeding events with long periods separating each event, as would be expected for a large carnivore with a batch-reactor digestive system.
  • 5
    We found significant sex differences in the temporal distribution of feeding. The number of feeding events per day was greater in males (2·2 ± 0·4 vs. 1·0 ± 0·2), as was time associated with feeding per day (56·6 ± 5·8 min vs. 43·9 ± 9·4 min).
  • 6
    The number of feeding events varied with time of day with the least number occurring during dawn. Feeding event size differed significantly by time of day, with greater meal sizes during the dawn and the smallest meals during the night.
  • 7
    The length of time between meals increased with the size of the previous meal, and was significantly less in males (541·4 ± 63·5 min) than in females (1092·6 ± 169·9 min).
  • 8
    These results provide new insight into the basis of sex differences in diving and diet in this large size-dimorphic marine predator.