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Keywords:

  • ringed seal;
  • Phoca hispida;
  • North Water Polynya;
  • Baffin Bay;
  • stable isotopes;
  • diet;
  • arctic cod;
  • polar cod;
  • Themisto libellula

Abstract

In conjunction with the International North Water Polynya Study (NOW) in northern Baffin Bay, we examined the diets of ringed seals (Phoca hispida)1 on the west (Grise Fiord, Nunavut) and east (Qaanaaq, Greenland) sides of the polynya, using conventional stomach content analysis, as well as inferences from stable isotope ratios in seal muscle. Between May and July 1998, stomach and muscle tissue samples were collected from 99 ringed seals taken near Grise Fiord and 100 taken near Qaanaaq. The amphipod Themisto libellula was the dominant prey type in the diet of immature ringed seals from Grise Fiord, whereas arctic cod (Boreogadus saida) and polar cod (Arctogadus glacialis) predominated in the diet of adults. Both immature and adult seals collected near Qaanaaq fed predominantly on arctic cod. Overall, seals collected near Grise Fiord had significantly higher δ13C values than those collected near Qaanaaq (P < 0.001), but there was no statistical separation in δ15N values between the two samples (P= 0.06). Differences in diets of ringed seals from the east and west sides of the North Water Polynya may be due to differences in prey distribution and/or differences in biological productivity and fish biomass within the polynya.