[MARMAM] New publication: Haul-out behaviour of the world's northernmost population of harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) throughout the year

Charmain Hamilton Charmain.Hamilton at npolar.no
Tue Jan 28 00:07:25 PST 2014


We would like to bring to your attention the following paper recently published in PLoS ONE.

Title: Haul-out behaviour of the world's northernmost population of harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) throughout the year
Authors: Charmain D. Hamilton, Christian Lydersen, Rolf A. Ims, Kit M. Kovacs

Abstract: The harbour seal population in Svalbard occurs at the northernmost limit of the species' range. It experiences
environmental extremes far beyond the norm for this species, including an extended period of polar night and extensive
sea ice cover. In 2009 and 2010, 60 harbour seals (30 pups + 30 immature/mature seals) from this population were equipped
with Satellite-Relay Data Loggers (SRDLs) to study their haul-out behaviour, with a special focus on the winter period. Using
a combination of Generalized Additive Mixed Models and Cox Proportional Hazard models, the influences of sex, maturity,
temporal, spatial and environmental factors on haul-out behaviour were explored. All of the seals continued to haul out
even through the coldest periods during the polar night, though clear seasonality in the time spent hauled out daily was
displayed by both immature and mature seals. Time spent hauled out daily decreased from ,5.2 hrs in September to
,1.2 hrs in February in these age groups, while pups displayed less seasonality (,2.4 hrs/day throughout most of the year).
The average at-sea period also exhibited seasonality, increasing to a maximum of ,1.6 days in February (monthly maxima
for individual animals ranged from 7 to 19 days). The seals showed a strong preference to haul out at low tide when hauling
out on land but not when using sea ice as a haul-out platform. A diel rhythm in haul-out behaviour was present during the
months with day-night cycling and midnight sun but not during the polar night. Haul-out behaviour was impacted to a
greater extent by air pressure, through its effect on wind speed, than by absolute temperature values. The extreme
environment in Svalbard likely causes some physiological challenges that might impact survival rates negatively, particularly
among pups. Climate warming is likely to have positive effects on Svalbard's harbour seal population.

Citation: Hamilton CD, Lydersen C, Ims RA, Kovacs KM (2014) Haul-Out Behaviour of the World's Northernmost Population of Harbour Seals (Phoca vitulina) throughout the Year. PLoS ONE 9(1): e86055. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0086055

The paper can be downloaded at PLoS ONE: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0086055

Best regards,


Charmain Hamilton
PhD Candidate
Norwegian Polar Institute
9296 Tromsø
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