Studying sea otter foraging ecology: A review of some methodological approaches

By: , and 
Edited by: Daniela MaldiniDonald CalkinsShannon Atkinson, and Rosa Meehan



The study of foraging ecology plays a central role in our understanding of animal populations and natural communities, and can also provide information necessary for the effective conservation of rare or endangered species. Sea otter researchers are interested in foraging ecology for many different reasons, but for heuristic purposes we identify three general types of research questions: (1) questions about the implications of foraging decisions to individual fitness, the evolutionary significance of feeding strategies, and the selective forces and constraints that shape an individual’s diet and feeding behavior; (2) questions about the population- level implications of foraging ecology; for example, how is the status of a population (with respect to carrying capacity) reflected by the foraging success or diet composition of individuals within the population (Fig. 1); and (3) questions about the community-level consequences of sea otter foraging. Sea otters provide an excellent study system for all three types of questions because they are a tractable species to study (generally feeding near shore and bringing all prey to the surface to consume), they exhibit a wide range of diets and foraging strategies in different habitats and at different population densities, they tend to have strong trophic interactions with their prey species, and their foraging behavior can have profound effects on community structure in the nearshore marine community.

Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Title Studying sea otter foraging ecology: A review of some methodological approaches
ISBN 1-56612-088-8
DOI 10.4027/asorw.2004
Year Published 2004
Language English
Publisher Alaska Sea Grant College Program, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Publisher location Fairbanks, AK
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center
Description 6 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Conference publication
Larger Work Title Alaska Sea Otter Research Workshop: Addressing the Decline of the Southwestern Alaska Sea Otter Population
First page 54
Last page 59
Conference Title Alaska Sea Otter Research Workshop
Conference Location Seward, AK
Conference Date 5-7 April 2004
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