Digging deeper into the ecology of the southern elephant seal (Mirounga leonina): does personality on land predict foraging behaviour variation at sea?

Poster session
Part of:
11:30, Friday 20 Dec 2019 (15 minutes)
Understanding the ecological and evolutionary implication of individual differences is becoming increasingly important for wildlife conservation. Foraging individual specialisation (i.e. differences in foraging behaviour) and personality (i.e. consistent behavioural expressions) are both well-studied concepts, and yet, rarely combined into the same study framework. In this study, we examined whether personality (i.e. boldness) on land predicts foraging behaviour at sea in southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina). We hypothesize that foraging habitat and behaviour differ with boldness according to risk-benefit and exploration-exploitation trade-offs. We conducted this study from 2017 to 2019 on a seal population breeding on Kerguelen Islands. We tested boldness on 315 individuals (130 males and 185 females) based on a human and novel object approach test. We estimated at sea foraging habitat (e.g. continental shelf or open water) of all individuals from the analysis of δ13C stable isotopes in blood or skin samples. Finally, we equipped 112 of these individuals with SMRU-CTD satellite tags to track their movements and diving behaviour while at sea. This project provides new insights into the ecological and evolutionary implications of individual differences, which is a key element in ecosystem conservation and management.

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