Special Seminar Series: The Ecology of Monterey Bay
The secret life of elephant seals:
Insights into the at-sea behavior of a mesopelagic predator
University of California, Santa Cruz
January 10, 2018
Pacific Forum—3:00 p.m.
Elephant seals are one of the few conservation success stories. They were hunted nearly to the point of extinction, such that by 1900 there were less than 20 individuals left on Guadalupe Island. Fortunately, the Mexican government protected them and today there are well over 200,000 individuals and the population and their range continue to expand! While protection played an essential role in the recovery of this species, their unusual foraging behavior no doubt had an important role in their recovery. Studying the foraging behavior of an animal that spends its time thousands of miles away from shore for months at a time is challenging, but the development of a variety of electronic tags has enabled us to shed some light on the amazing behavior of this intriguing air breathing marine vertebrate. Elephant seals forage over much of the North Eastern Pacific Ocean, routinely foraging to depths between 400-600 meters with a maximum depth of 1,761 meters. On average, their dives last 23 minutes with the longest recorded dive being 1.94 hours! This talk will provide an update on our ongoing studies of the foraging behavior and ecology of this deep diving predator.