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Limited use of sea ice by the Ross seal (Ommatophoca rossii), in Amundsen Sea, Antarctica, using telemetry and remote sensing data

Journal article
Authors A. Arcalis-planas
S. Svegard
O. Karlsson
Karin C. Harding
Anna Wåhlin
T. Härkönen
J. Teilmann
Published in Polar Biology
Volume 38
Issue 4
Pages 445-461
ISSN 0722-4060
Publication year 2015
Published at Department of Earth Sciences
Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Pages 445-461
Language en
Keywords Amundsen Sea; Argos satellite telemetry; Climate change; Haul out pattern; Ice edge; Remote sensing; Ross seals (Ommatophoca rossii); Sea ice
Subject categories Oceanography


To understand the use and importance of the Antarctic sea ice to the Ross seal (Ommatophoca rossii), four adult females were tagged with Argos satellite transmitters in the Amundsen Sea, Antarctica. The Ross seal is the least studied of the Antarctic seal species and nothing was previously known about their behaviour in the Amundsen Sea. During almost 1 year, their movements, haul out behaviour and time spent at different temperatures were logged. By comparing their movements with daily ice maps, distances to the ice edge were calculated, and seals dependence on sea ice for resting, breeding and moulting was analysed. The tagged seals spent on average 70.8 % (range 66.8–77.8 %) of their time in the water and hauled out mainly during the moult in December–January, and in late October–mid-November during breeding. During the pelagic period, they were on average 837.5 km (range 587–1,282 km) from the ice edge indicating a fully pelagic life during several months. Their pelagic behaviour suggests that Ross seals, although being an ice obligate species, may adapt comparatively easy to climate change involving ice melting and recession and thereby potentially being less sensitive to the reduction of sea ice than other Antarctic seal species. Although nothing is known about their mating behaviour, they appear to be relatively stationary during moulting and breeding, hence requiring a small ice surface. Although previous studies in other parts of Antarctica have found similar results, still many questions remain about this peculiar species.

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