Prey selection by harbour seals, Phoca vitulina, in relation to variations in prey abundance

DJ Tollit, SPR Greenstreet, PM Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This study compared the composition of the diet of harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) feeding in the Moray Firth, Scotland, with the abundance of their fish prey estimated from dedicated fishery surveys in January 1992 and 1994 and June 1992. Prey-size selection was also examined in these three time periods and in January 1991. In each period, the most abundant fish species contributed most to the diet. However, the relative abundances of the remaining species in the sea showed little similarity to their contribution to the seals' diet. Diet composition was almost totally dominated by either pelagic species or species dwelling on or strongly associated with the seabed, depending upon the relative abundance of pelagic schooling prey. Most fish consumed were 10-16 cm in length, although larger cod and herring were taken. With the exception of cod, the extent of size selection was dependent upon the use of correction factors that accounted for otolith erosion due to digestion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1508-1518
Number of pages11
JournalCanadian Journal of Zoology
Volume75
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1997

Keywords

  • SANDEEL AMMODYTES-MARINUS
  • MORAY-FIRTH
  • FEEDING-HABITS
  • FUR SEALS
  • SCOTLAND
  • DIET
  • FISH
  • FOOD
  • MOVEMENTS
  • SKAGERRAK

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