Diving behaviour during the breeding season in the terrestrially breeding male grey seal: implications for alternative mating tactics

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We examined the diving behaviour of breeding male grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) at Sable Island, Nova Scotia, from 1997 to 2001. The proportion of time spent at sea varied between 0 and 78% (N = 30). Males engaged in deep (43.4 ± 3.3 m (mean ± SE), N = 27) diving, and these dives were clustered into bouts, which mostly occurred during long trips (62.2 ± 14.7 h). We suggest that males spent time foraging during deep dives. Shallow diving (5.9 ± 0.1 m, N = 27) accounted for 40.8% of dives, which were also clustered into bouts that mostly occurred during short trips (2.1 ± 0.37 h). We suggest that shallow diving comprised a suite of behaviours, but included little foraging behaviour. Phenotypic traits had little influence on diving behaviour. Further work is required to understand the extent to which foraging behaviour enhances reproductive success, and whether shallow diving is a component of the mating tactics of male grey seals at Sable Island.

Nous avons étudié le comportement de plongée de mâles du phoque gris (Halichoerus grypus) en période de reproduction à l'île de Sable, Nouvelle-Écosse, de 1997 à 2001. La fraction du temps passé en mer varie de 0 à 78 % (N = 30). Les mâles entreprennent des plongées profondes (43,4 ± 3,3 m (moyenne ± erreur type), N = 27) qui sont regroupées en épisodes, surtout durant les voyages prolongés (62,2 ± 14,7 h). Nous croyons que les mâles passent une partie du temps de ces plongées profondes à la recherche de nourriture. Les plongées moins profondes (5,9 ± 0,1 m, N = 27) représentent 40,8 % des plongées et elles se font aussi par épisodes, principalement durant les voyages courts (2,1 ± 0,37 h). Nous pensons que les plongées peu profondes consistent en une suite de comportements, mais avec peu de recherche de nourriture. Les caractéristiques phénotypiques influencent peu le comportement de plongée. Seules des études additionnelles permettront de comprendre comment le comportement de recherche de nourriture contribue à améliorer le succès de la reproduction et de savoir si les plongées de faible profondeur font partie des tactiques d'accouplement chez les phoques gris de l'île de Sable.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2003

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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