[MARMAM] New Publication: Pinniped whisker growth rates and stable isotopes

Roxanne Beltran roxanne.beltran at gmail.com
Tue Apr 7 11:29:59 PDT 2015

My co-authors and I are pleased to share our new publication "Fine-scale
whisker growth measurements can reveal temporal foraging patterns from
stable isotope signatures" in Marine Ecology Progress Series:


*Abstract: *Stable isotope analysis of slow-growing, metabolically inert
tissues is a common method for investigating foraging ecology in migratory
animals, as direct observations of feeding are often not possible. Using
tissue growth dynamics to interpret foraging timelines can maximize the
utility of foraging data; however, applying inappropriate growth models is
problematic, and high-resolution growth measurements are seldom made. We
used photogrammetry to repeatedly measure the length of whiskers in 93
follicles over 670 d in a trained, captive northern elephant seal Mirounga
angustirostris. We developed and optimized a follicle-specific growth model
to describe the 18000 whisker length measurements. Whiskers from the
captive seal exhibited asymptotic growth that was described by the von
Bertalanffy growth function. Applying the growth model to serially sampled
whiskers from 4 free-ranging adult female northern elephant seals resulted
in alignment of peaks in d15N along the length of whiskers with the
breeding haul-out period, when seals are not feeding. Our study provides a
high-resolution whisker growth model and is the first to use whisker growth
dynamics to improve temporal interpretation of isotopic ratios.

Please contact me if you have any questions or do not have access to the

Take care,

Roxanne Santina Beltran
NSF Predoctoral Fellow
M.Sc. Student, Burns Lab
University of Alaska Anchorage
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