University Of Tasmania
130086 - Coastal polynyas- winter oases for subadult southern elephant seals in East Antarctica.pdf (3.77 MB)

Coastal polynyas: winter oases for subadult southern elephant seals in East Antarctica

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 23:47 authored by Labrousse, S, Guy Williams, Tamura, T, Sophie BestleySophie Bestley, Sallee, J-B, Alexander FraserAlexander Fraser, Michael SumnerMichael Sumner, Roquet, F, Heerah, K, Picard, B, Guinet, C, Harcourt, R, Clive McMahonClive McMahon, Mark HindellMark Hindell, Charrassin, J-B
Antarctic coastal polynyas are regions of persistent open water and are thought to be key bio-physical features within the sea-ice zone. However, their use by the upper trophic levels of ecosystems remains unclear. A unique bio-physical dataset recorded by southern elephant seals reveals that East Antarctic polynyas are a key winter foraging habitat for male seals. During their post-moult trips from Isles Kerguelen to the Antarctic continental shelf, a total of 18 out of 23 seals visited 9 different polynyas, spending on average 25 ± 20% (up to 75%) of their total trip time inside polynyas. Changes in seal foraging and diving behaviours are observed inside polynyas as compared to outside polynyas. Two polynya usages by seals are observed for the inactive and active polynya phases, pointing to different seasonal peaks in prey abundance. During the active polynya phase, we link seal foraging behaviour to changes in the physical stability of the water-column, which likely impact the seasonal biological dynamics within polynyas.


Publication title

Scientific Reports



Article number









Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Nature Publishing Group

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

Copyright 2018 The Authors. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Marine biodiversity