Intra-archipelago moult dispersion of southern elephant seals at the Prince Edward Islands, southern Indian Ocean

  • WC Oosthuizen
  • MN Bester
  • PJN de Bruyn
  • GJG Hofmeyr

Abstract

During three summer surveys at Prince Edward Island (PEI), southern Indian Ocean (2001, 2004 and 2008), 416 southern elephant seals Mirounga leonina were inspected for identification tags. In all, 42 seals that had been tagged as weaned pups at their natal site were found on Marion Island (MI), 38 of which could be individually identified by resighting their tag numbers. The majority of the MI-tagged seals were yearlings or subadults, and all but one were hauled out at PEI for the annual moult. The attendance rate of the known individuals at their  natal island during the annual moult was only 40%, based on their  resighting histories. This was significantly lower than the 77 ± 6% moult attendance rate estimated for a random MI population sample  drawn from the same cohorts (based on 10 000 replications). Annual resight probabilities (considering all haulout phases) was 58% per annum for the MI seals seen at PEI, and 80 ± 4% for the simulation. Seasonal and annual absences of seals from MI violate the ‘homogeneity of capture’ assumption of mark–recapture models. When  multiple sightings during any year are treated as a single sighting, resights during other haulouts (e.g. breeding) compensate only partially for absences during the moult. Therefore, mark–recapture studies undertaken in archipelagos should ideally include both marking and resighting of individuals on all islands which will allow discrimination between mortality and local migration.

Keywords: capture heterogeneity; dispersal; mark–resight; Mirounga leonina; movement; Prince Edward Islands; site fidelity; sub-Antarctic

African Journal of Marine Science 2009, 31(3): 457–462

Author Biographies

WC Oosthuizen
Mammal Research Institute, Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0002, South Africa
MN Bester
Mammal Research Institute, Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0002, South Africa
PJN de Bruyn
Mammal Research Institute, Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0002, South Africa
GJG Hofmeyr
Mammal Research Institute, Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0002, South Africa; Port Elizabeth Museum at Bayworld, PO Box 13147, Humewood 6013, South Africa
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Articles

Journal Identifiers


eISSN: 1814-2338
print ISSN: 1814-232X