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Keywords:

  • Northern elephant seals;
  • feeding habits;
  • stomach lavage;
  • ketamine immobilization

Abstract

Stomach lavaging was used to study the feeding habits of northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) found on San Miguel Island, California, during the spring of 1984. Fifty-nine elephant seals were chemically immobilized with an intramuscular injection of ketamine hydrochloride. Once immobilized, an animal's stomach was intubated, filled with 3–4 liters of water to create a slurry of the undigested food items, and evacuated into a collection device. The stomachs of 57 (96.6%) of the animals lavaged contained identifiable parts of prey. Twenty-nine different food items were identified, 12 of which have not been previously reported as prey of the northern elephant seal: two teleost fish, Coryphaenoides acrolepis (Pacific rattail) and another unidentified macrourid; two crustaceans, Pasiphaea pacifica (glass shrimp) and Euphausia sp.; six squid, Abraliopsis felis, Gonatus berryi, Histioteuthis dofleini, Cranchia scabra, Taonius pavo, and Galiteuthis sp. and two octopi, Octopus dofleini and Octopus rubescens.