SMM Editors’ Select Series Webinar, 15 February 2024: Foraging migration ontogeny in southern elephant seals with Dr. Trevor McIntyre

You are invited to the next edition of the SMM Editors’ Select Webinar Series. This series highlights the latest and most exciting marine mammal science published in the Marine Mammal Science Journal. The SMM created this series to give scientists and citizens around the world a chance to engage with marine mammal scientists, learn, and ask questions. All are welcome!

Join us on Thursday February 15th 2024 at 10 am PST / 6 pm GMT
for the next SMM Editors’ Select Series Webinar:
Foraging migration ontogeny in southern elephant seals: finding their way as they go?
with Dr. Trevor McIntyre

This event was recorded live and put on youtube:
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About this talk:
Elephant seal pups are abandoned by their mothers when they are between three and four weeks of age. After a short period of fasting on-land, they depart on their first foraging migrations unaccompanied by adults. These maiden foraging trips normally last longer than three months, during which they must avoid potential predators such as orcas and find sufficient food in the vast Southern Ocean. The development of the skills needed to successfully navigate these early foraging trips is poorly understood, not only in elephant seals, but in many animals that perform extreme migratory behaviours. We studied the maiden foraging trips of recently weaned southern elephant seal pups from Marion Island ̶ a small, but intensively studied population located in the southern Indian Ocean. Unlike the adults of this population, recently weaned pups did not show evidence of consistency in travel directions, distances and speed of travel between individuals, or even between sequential foraging trips by the same individuals. Cumulatively, our results suggest that the foraging strategies of adult elephant seals from this population are strongly influenced by rapid learning while at-sea and is likely less reliant on innate behaviours or innate responses to large-scale environmental cues. There remains a need for continued longitudinal studies to better understand what the likely population-level effects of juvenile behavioural strategies are.

About the presenter:
Dr Trevor McIntyre is an Associate Professor in Zoology at the University of South Africa (UNISA). He first started working with marine mammals as a field assistant on the Marion Island Marine Mammal Programme in 2005, before continuing with his PhD studies on at-sea behaviours of southern elephant seals at the University of Pretoria. Dr McIntyre then commenced  a few years of postdoctoral research in South Africa and at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, followed by a lecturing position at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, before joining UNISA in 2019. His broad research interests are centred around behavioural adaptations of animals to environmental change, particularly for semi-aquatic mammals such as seals and otters. Current research projects he is involved in include studies on the ecology of African clawless otter in freshwater systems of South Africa and Ross seals in the eastern Weddell Sea, Antarctica.

Open access to this article is made temporarily available in the weeks around the presentation and can be found here. Current SMM members have access to all Marine Mammal Science papers.

Missed a presentation or want to share this series with a friend? All previous Editors’ Select presentations are recorded and archived on our YouTube channel here.

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