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Heerah-2014-A New Method to Quan.pdf (1.94 MB)

A new method to quantify within dive foraging behaviour in marine predators

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 02:37 authored by Heerah, K, Mark HindellMark Hindell, Guinet, C, Charrassin, J-B
Studies on diving behaviour classically divide a dive into three phases: the descent, bottom and ascent phases, with foraging assumed to occur during the bottom phase. The greater complexity of dive revealed through modern, high resolution data highlights the need to re-assess this approach and to consider a larger number of phases within individual dives. Two southern elephant seals (SES) were fitted with a head mounted Time Depth Recorder (TDR) and an accelerometer from which prey capture attempts were estimated. A Weddell seal was also fitted with a TDR. TDRs for both species recorded depth once per second. We quantified the within dive behaviour using an automated broken stick algorithm identifying the optimal number of segments within each dive. The vertical sinuosity of the segments was used to infer two types of behaviours, with highly sinuous segments indicating "hunting" and less sinuous segments indicating "transiting". Using the broken stick method the seals alternated between "hunting" and "transit" modes with an average of 6±2 and 7±0.02 behavioural phases within each dive for the Weddell seal and SES, respectively. In SES, 77% of prey capture attempts (identified from the acceleration data) occurred in highly sinuous phases (“hunting”) as defined by our new approach. SES spent more time in transit mode within a dive, and hunting mostly occurred during the bottom phase. Conversely the Weddell seal spent more time in hunting mode which also occurred during bottom phase but occurred mostly at shallower depths. Such differences probably reflect different foraging tactics and habitat use. For both species, hunting time differs significantly from bottom time previously used as a proxy for the time spent foraging in a dive. The hunting time defined by our method therefore provides a more accurate fine-scale description of the seals' foraging behaviour.


Publication title

Plos One





Article number









Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Public Library of Science

Place of publication

United States of America

Rights statement

Licenced under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Assessment and management of coastal and estuarine ecosystems

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