Projected shifts in the foraging habitat of crabeater seals along the Antarctic Peninsula
Moss Landing Marine Laboratories
Nature Climate Change
Crabeater seals exhibit extreme dietary specialization, feeding almost exclusively on Antarctic krill. This specialization has inextricably linked habitat use, life history and evolution of this pinniped species to the distribution of its prey. Therefore, the foraging habitat of crabeater seals can be used to infer the distribution of Antarctic krill. Here, we combined seal movements and diving behaviour with environmental variables to build a foraging habitat model for crabeater seals for the rapidly changing western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP). Our projections show that future crabeater seal foraging habitat and, by inference, krill distribution will expand towards offshore waters and the southern WAP in response to changes in circulation, water temperature and sea ice distribution. Antarctic krill biomass is projected to be negatively affected by the environmental changes, which are anticipated to manifest as a decrease in krill densities in coastal waters, with impacts on the land-/ice-based krill predator community, particularly in the northern WAP.
National Science Foundation
Luis A. Hückstädt, Andrea Piñones, Daniel M. Palacios, Birgitte I. McDonald, Michael S. Dinniman, Eileen E. Hofmann, Jennifer M. Burns, Daniel E. Crocker, and Daniel P. Costa. "Projected shifts in the foraging habitat of crabeater seals along the Antarctic Peninsula" Nature Climate Change (2020): 472-477. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-020-0745-9