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Influence of environmental variation on spatial distribution and habitat-use in a benthic foraging marine predator

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 12:29 authored by Speakman, CN, Hoskins, AJ, Mark HindellMark Hindell, Costa, DP, Hartog, JR, Hobday, AJ, Arnould, JPY

The highly dynamic nature of the marine environment can have a substantial influence on the foraging behaviour and spatial distribution of marine predators, particularly in pelagic marine systems. However, knowledge of the susceptibility of benthic marine predators to environmental variability is limited. This study investigated the influence of local-scale environmental conditions and large-scale climate indices on the spatial distribution and habitat use in the benthic foraging Australian fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus; AUFS). Female AUFS provisioning pups were instrumented with GPS or ARGOS platform terminal transmitter tags during the austral winters of 2001-2019 at Kanowna Island, south-eastern Australia. Individuals were most susceptible to changes in the Southern Oscillation Index that measures the strength of the El Nino Southern Oscillation, with larger foraging ranges, greater distances travelled and more dispersed movement associated with 1-yr lagged La Nina-like conditions. Additionally, the total distance travelled was negatively correlated with the current year sea surface temperature and 1-yr lagged Indian Ocean Dipole, and positively correlated with 1-yr lagged chlorophyll-a concentration. These results suggest that environmental variation may influence the spatial distribution and availability of prey, even within benthic marine systems.


Publication title

Royal Society Open Science





Article number









Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


The Royal Society Publishing

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

© 2021 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License,, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Assessment and management of benthic marine ecosystems

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