DIET OF WEANED PUPS AND SEASONAL VARIATIONS IN BODY CONDITION OF JUVENILE BARENTS SEA HARP SEALS PHOCA GROENLANDICA

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Abstract

Data on blubber depth, body condition, and diet were collected from young of year and juvenile harp seals (Phoca groenlandica) in the Barents Sea in the periods February-April and June-October 1990–1997. Harp seal pups feed independently shortly after weaning. In the southern parts of the Barents Sea the diet of harp seal pups consisted mainly of euphausiids (“krill”) Thysanoessa sp. and amphipods of the genus Parathemisto. The change in body condition of harp seal pups between weaning (mid-March) and June indicated that considerable amounts of blubber energy, deposited during suckling, were mobilized. This suggests that the early food intake of weaned pups was insufficient to meet the energy requirements. The pattern of low spring and earlysummer body condition, followed by a subsequent rapid improvement in condition during late summer and autumn appeared to occur not only among pups-of-the-year, but also in one- and two-year old harp seals.

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