DIVING BEHAVIOR OF SUBADULT AND ADULT HARBOR SEALS IN PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND, ALASKA

Authors

  • Kathryn J. Frost,

    1. Alaska Department of Fish and Game, 1300 College Road, Fairbanks, Alaska 99701, U. S. A. E-mail: kjfrost@eagle.ptialaska.net
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      Current address: University of Alaska, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775, U.S.A.

  • Michael A. Simpkins,

    1. National Marine Mammal Laboratory, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, Washington 98115, U. S. A.
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  • Lloyd F. Lowry

    1. Alaska Department of Fish and Game, 1300 College Road, Fairbanks, Alaska 99701, U. S. A.
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      Current address: University of Alaska, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775, U.S.A.


Abstract

Satellite-linked depth recorders (SDRs) were attached to 47 harbor seals in Prince William Sound, Alaska, during 1992–1996. Parameters describing diving effort, diving focus, and focal depth (depth bin to which diving was focused) were calculated from binned data on maximum dive depth and time spent at depth, and analyzed using repeated-measures mixed models. This analysis method accounted for individual variability, temporal autocorrelation, and the binned nature of SDR data, which are often ignored using standard statistical techniques. Results indicated that diving effort remained steady from September to April, when seals spent 68%-75% of their overall time in the water. Time spent in the water declined to 60% in May and to about 40% in July. Seals spent the most time in the water at night and the least in the morning. The diving of all seals in all months was highly focused. Overall, diving was focused to one depth bin approximately 75% of the time. Diving was more focused for females than for males and subadults. Focal dive depth was deepest in winter and shallowest during May-July. Focal depth and diving focus varied by region. Collinearity between month and region in the focal depth model suggests that seals move in winter to regions where prey are found deeper in the water column. Variations in diving behavior presumably result from combinations of regional bathymetry, seasonal cycles in type or depth distribution of prey, and seal life-cycle events such as reproduction and molting.

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