Using short-term measures of behaviour to estimate long-term fitness of southern elephant seals

Open Access Peer Reviewed Publication 2014

Marine Ecology Progress Series

Environmental changes (a type of disturbance) are altering the habitat of southern elephant seals Mirounga leonina, an apex marine predator in the Southern Ocean. As a result, individuals may shift their behaviour, spending more time in transit and less time foraging. The effects of these sublethal changes in behaviour can accumulate, indirectly impacting lifetime fitness through changes in individual survival and reproduction. If a sufficient proportion of the population is affected, the probability of population persistence will be altered. We used data from long-term telemetry studies of female elephant seals at Macquarie Island, Australia, to model the effect of behaviour on the seals’ health (i.e. all internal factors that affect homeostasis). Through simulation, we investigated the effect of increasing periods of behavioural shifts, quantifying how the exclusion of maternal southern elephant seals from foraging habitat may affect their health, offspring survival, individual fitness and population growth rate. A long period of altered behaviour (>50% of an average foraging trip at sea) in 1 yr resulted in a small (0.4%) decline in population size the following year. However, a persistent disruption (e.g. 30 yr), caused for example by the long-term effects of climate change, could result in a 0.3% decline in individual fitness and a 10% decline in population size. Our approach to estimating the long-term population effects of short-term changes in individual behaviour can be generalised to include physiological effects and other causes of behavioural and physiological disruption, such as anthropogenic disturbance, for any species.

Link To Publication

Similar Research

Anthropogenic sound and marine mammal health: measures of the nervous and immune systems before and after intense sound exposure

Pay-walled Journal Article 2004

Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences

Anthropogenic sound is a potential stressor for marine mammals that may affect health, as has been demonstrated in other mammals. Therefore, we have initiated investigations on...
Read More

Effect of anthropogenic low-frequency noise on the foraging ecology of Balaenoptera whales

Pay-walled Journal Article 2006

Animal Conservation

The human contribution to ambient noise in the ocean has increased over the past 50 years, and is dominated by low-frequency (LF) sound (frequencies <1000 Hz)...
Read More

Response and Responsibility: Regulating Noise Pollution in the Marine Environment

Pay-walled Journal Article 2007

Journal of International Wildlife Law and Policy

The ocean is becoming an increasingly noisy environment. With a rise in com-mercial shipping, resource extraction activities, and military-related activities,the underwater ocean environment is a virtual...
Read More

Influences of man-made noise and other human actions on cetacean behaviour

Pay-walled Journal Article 1995

Marine and Freshwater Behaviour and Physiology

Behavioral reactions of cetaceans to man-made noises are highly variable, ranging from attraction (e.g. bow riding by dolphins) or no response through short-term changes in behaviour...
Read More

International Regulation Of Transboundary Pollutants: The Emerging Challenge Of Ocean Noise

Open Access Journal Article 2001

Ocena and Coastal Law Journal

Transboundary pollution law poses the challenge of addressing environmental problems irrespective of boundaries in an international legal system that values, above all, territorial sovereignty of individual...
Read More

A Brief Review of Anthropogenic Sound in the Oceans

Open Access Journal Article 2007

International Journal of Comparative Psychology

Sound in the oceans is generated by a variety of natural sources, such as breaking waves, rain, and marine animals, as well as a variety of...
Read More

Effects of underwater noise on auditory sensitivity of a cyprinid fish

Pay-walled Journal Article 2001

Hearing Research

The ability of a fish to interpret acoustic information in its environment is crucial for its survival. Thus, it is important to understand how underwater noise...
Read More

Effects of noise exposure on click detection and the temporal resolution ability of the goldfish auditory system

Pay-walled Journal Article 2005

Hearing Research

Hearing specialist fishes investigated so far revealed excellent temporal resolution abilities, enabling them to accurately process temporal patterns of sounds. Because noise is a growing environmental...
Read More

The effects of noise on the auditory sensitivity of the bluegill sunfish, Lepomis macrochirus

Pay-walled Journal Article 2002

Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology

As concerns about the effects of underwater anthropogenic noises on the auditory function of organisms increases, it is imperative to assess if all organisms are equally...
Read More

Determination of environmental sensitivity of acoustic propagation on continental shelves using an equivalent fluid parabolic equation model

Pay-walled Journal Article 1995

The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America

A coupled environment and acoustic prediction system was developed to evaluate the sensitivity of acoustic propagation on the continental shelf to water column and sediment properties....
Read More