Foraging Fidelity as a Recipe for a Long Life: Foraging Strategy and Longevity in Male Southern Elephant Seals

Matthieu Authier*, Ilham Bentaleb, Aurore Ponchon, Celine Martin, Christophe Guinet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Identifying individual factors affecting life-span has long been of interest for biologists and demographers: how do some individuals manage to dodge the forces of mortality when the vast majority does not? Answering this question is not straightforward, partly because of the arduous task of accurately estimating longevity in wild animals, and of the statistical difficulties in correlating time-varying ecological covariables with a single number (time-to-event). Here we investigated the relationship between foraging strategy and life-span in an elusive and large marine predator: the Southern Elephant Seal (Mirounga leonina). Using teeth recovered from dead males on iles Kerguelen, Southern Ocean, we first aged specimens. Then we used stable isotopic measurements of carbon (delta C-13) in dentin to study the effect of foraging location on individual life-span. Using a joint change-point/survival modelling approach which enabled us to describe the ontogenetic trajectory of foraging, we unveiled how a stable foraging strategy developed early in life positively covaried with longevity in male Southern Elephant Seals. Coupled with an appropriate statistical analysis, stable isotopes have the potential to tackle ecological questions of long standing interest but whose answer has been hampered by logistic constraints.

Original languageEnglish
Article number32026
Number of pages11
JournalPloS ONE
Volume7
Issue number4
Early online date10 Apr 2012
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 2012

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgements
The authors wish to thank all fieldworkers that have collected data since the first mission on ıles Kerguelen. In particular, the authors would like to thank Nory El-Ksabi and Quentin Delorme. We thank the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle (Paris) for kindly providing teeth collected before the population crash. We thank Anne-Cecile Dragon for helpful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript and for providing Figure S1. We also thank two anonynous reviewers and the Academic Editor, Andre´ Chiaradia, for constructive comments that greatly improved the manuscript both in content and in form. This is publication ISE-M no. ISEM 2012-012.

Keywords

  • MULTIVARIATE DATA-ANALYSIS
  • MIROUNGA-LEONINA L
  • STABLE-CARBON
  • INDIVIDUAL FITNESS
  • DECLINING POPULATION
  • REGRESSION-MODELS
  • ISOTOPIC ANALYSIS
  • LONGITUDINAL DATA
  • TROPHIC ECOLOGY
  • FUR SEALS

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