DENSITY DEPENDENCE IN NORTHERN FUR SEALS (CALLORHINUS URSINUS)

Authors

  • Charles W. Fowler

    1. National Marine Mammal Laboratory, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, 7600 Sand Point Way, N.E., BIN C15700, Seattle, Washington 98115
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Abstract

This paper summarizes, updates, and interprets information on density-dependent dynamics of populations of the northern fur seal (Callorhinus ursinus). Density-dependent changes observed in these populations have involved various aspects of growth (body length, body weight, tooth weight, and size of other skeletal parts, especially the skull), survival, age at maturation, incidence of disease, and time spent foraging. For the population of northern fur seals on St. Paul Island of the Pribilof Islands, which was observed during a major increase and during two significant declines, density-dependent changes that occurred during the growth of the population were reversed during the declines. The Robben Island population in the western Pacific declined after 1965, and the decline was accompanied by changes similar to those observed during the declines on the Pribilof Islands. Although data are not available for all age and sex classes, it appears that most or all components of the populations exhibit similar changes. The overall implication of these changes is that current populations on Robben Island and the Pribilof Islands are reduced to levels below what could be supported by the resources available in their environments. Density dependence for this species is consistent with that of other large mammals, specifically in that vital rates for fur seals ate related to density in a nonlinear fashion.

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