Display-area size, tenure length, and site fidelity in the aquatically mating male harbour seal, Phoca vitulina

S M Van Parijs, V M Janik, P M Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

40 Citations (Scopus)


Previous studies of the distribution and activity of male harbour seals, Phoca vitulina, based on telemetric techniques have shown that males restrict their range at the onset of the mating season and perform vocal and dive displays. While these data illustrated broad changes in male behaviour and distribution, they were not precise enough to reveal the extent to which individual males repeatedly return to the same locations to display. In this study we used an acoustic array to localise male vocalisations. This technique provided small-scale information on male behaviour over 3 consecutive years. This study provides the first details concerning display-area size in an aquatically mating phocid. Male vocalisations were located in two discrete areas each covering between 40 and 135 m(2). Vocalisations were repeatedly located in these two areas over the 3-year period. Comparisons of four vocal parameters suggested that only one individual occupied each area throughout a mating season. Furthermore, comparative analysis suggested that males might return to the same two display areas in successive years. Although the number of males using the site was small, this study showed that acoustic localisation can be a valuable tool for detailed study of the underwater behaviour of aquatically mating pinnipeds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2209-2217
Number of pages9
JournalCanadian Journal Of Zoology/Revue Canadien De Zoologie
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2000


  • geographical variation
  • behavior
  • season
  • lactation
  • patterns
  • system


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