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Keywords:

  • diet;
  • seal;
  • California sea lion;
  • Zalophus californianus;
  • Australian fur seal;
  • Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus;
  • fecal analysis;
  • near infrared spectroscopy

Abstract

We investigated the utility of Near Infrared Spectroscopy as a means to quantify the diet of seals via analysis of feces. A pilot study showed that we could accurately determine the proportion of each species in a mixture of flesh of two species of fish and one squid. Having done so, we then assessed whether the same capacity existed for fecal material. Again we used two species of fish and one squid as the diet components offered to two captive seals (a California sea lion and an Australian fur seal). Five of the six calibrations could accurately and precisely quantify how much of a given diet component the seal had eaten the previous day from an NIR scan of the feces. NIR spectroscopy is theoretically a viable way to quantify seal diets. We discuss the logistical requirements for development of calibration equations for application to a field study. These may be prohibitive in many cases, but in others may be offset by the particular circumstances or objectives of the study. Adoption of NIRS may confer significant benefits in these circumstances.