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Foraging diversity in lactating New Zealand sea lions: insights from qualitative and quantitative fatty acid analysis

Meynier, Laureline, Morel, Patrick C.H., Chilvers, B. Louise, Mackenzie, Duncan D.S., Duignan, Pádraig J.
Canadian journal of fisheries and aquatic sciences 2014 v.71 no.7 pp. 984-991
Phocarctos hookeri, blubber, diet, energy, fatty acids, females, fisheries, foraging, islands, lactation, prediction, New Zealand
Lactating New Zealand (NZ) sea lions (Phocarctos hookeri) exhibit different foraging patterns during their foraging trips, with benthic divers spending more energy at sea than mesopelagic conspecifics. We compared blubber fatty acids (FAs) of 14 benthic and 12 mesopelagic females captured at the Auckland Islands, NZ subantarctic, in late January 2000 using an analysis of similarities (ANOSIM). FA profiles between foraging types were significantly different (global R = 0.30, p = 0.001), suggesting a different use in prey resources. We then compared the diet predictions by quantitative FA signature analysis (QFASA) by using a prey FA library available in the region. Overall, diet predictions were significantly distinct between benthic and mesopelagic females (global R = 0.17, p = 0.022), although the diets consisted of the same prey but in different contributions. The results suggest benthic females do not compensate their higher foraging costs by feeding on prey with higher energy densities. Foraging areas of benthic females are not exploited by the trawling fishery; therefore, the benthic tactic might be a trade-off between a higher foraging cost and less resource competition.