[MARMAM] New publication on fitness benefits to elephant seals of foraging in dynamic ocean structures

Briana Abrahms briana.abrahms at noaa.gov
Thu Aug 23 11:29:47 PDT 2018

Dear colleagues,

We are pleased to share the recent publication of our paper in Proceedings
of the Royal Society Biological Sciences:

Abrahms, B., Scales, K.L., Hazen, E.L., Bograd, S.J., Schick, R.S.,
Robinson, P.W., and Costa, D.P. 2018. Mesoscale activity facilitates energy
gain in a top predator. *Proceedings of the Royal Society Biological
Sciences*, 285: 20181101. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2018.1101.

Abstract: How animal movement decisions interact with the distribution of
resources to shape individual performance is a key question in ecology.
However, links between spatial and behavioural ecology and fitness
consequences are poorly understood because the outcomes of individual
resource selection decisions, such as energy intake, are rarely measured.
In the open ocean, mesoscale features (approx. 10 –100 km) such as fronts
and eddies can aggregate prey and thereby drive the distribution of
foraging vertebrates through bottom-up biophysical coupling. These
productive features are known to attract predators, yet their role in
facilitating energy transfer to top-level consumers is opaque. We
investigated the use of mesoscale features by migrating northern elephant
seals and quantified the corresponding energetic gains from the seals’
foraging patterns at a daily resolution. Migrating elephant seals modified
their diving behaviour and selected for mesoscale features when foraging.
Daily energy gain increased significantly with increasing mesoscale
activity, indicating that the physical environment can influence predator
fitness at fine temporal scales. Results show that areas of high mesoscale
activity not only attract top predators as foraging hotspots, but also lead
to increased energy transfer across trophic levels. Our study provides
evidence that the physical environment is an important factor in
controlling energy flow to top predators by setting the stage for variation
in resource availability. Such understanding is critical for assessing how
changes in the environment and resource distribution will affect individual
fitness and food web dynamics.

An online version of the article can be accessed here: http://rspb.

Best wishes,

Briana Abrahms and coauthors
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