Temporal records of diet diversity dynamics in individual adult female Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) vibrissae

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Detailed information on the nutrition of free-ranging mammals contributes to the understanding of life history requirements, yet is often quite limited temporally for most species. Reliable dietary inferences can be made by analyzing the stable carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) isotopic values (δ13C and δ15N) of some consumer tissues; exactly which tissue is utilized dictates the inferential scope. Steller sea lion (SSL) vibrissae are grown continuously without shedding and thus provide a continuous multi-year record of dietary consumption. We applied a novel kernel density approach to compare the δ13C and δ15N values along the length of SSL vibrissae with δ13C and δ15N distributions of potential prey species. This resulted in time-series of proportion estimates of dietary consumption for individual SSL. Substantial overlap in δ13C and δ15N distributions for prey species prevented a discrete species-scale assessment of SSL diets; however, a post hoc correlational analysis of diet proportion estimates revealed grouping by trophic level. Our findings suggest that adult female SSL diets in the western and central Aleutian Islands shift significantly according to season: diets contain a higher proportion of lower trophic level species (Pacific Ocean perch, northern rockfish, Atka mackerel and walleye pollock) in the summer, whereas in the winter SSL consume a much more diverse diet which includes a greater proportion of higher trophic level species (arrowtooth flounder, Kamchatka flounder, darkfin sculpin, Pacific cod, Pacific octopus, rock sole, snailfish, and yellow Irish lord).

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Temporal records of diet diversity dynamics in individual adult female Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) vibrissae
Series title Oecologia
DOI 10.1007/s00442-018-4173-8
Volume 188
Issue 1
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Fort Collins Science Center
Description 13 p.
First page 263
Last page 275
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