Sex-specific, seasonal foraging tactics of adult grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) revealed by state-space analysis

Ecology. 2009 Nov;90(11):3209-21. doi: 10.1890/07-1483.1.


In many large pelagic animals, observing behavior is limited to observation by radio or satellite telemetry. In many cases, discriminating different behaviors from telemetry data has been a key, but often elusive, goal. Here we use state-space models (SSMs) to fit a correlated random walk (CRW) model that switches between two unobserved behavioral states (nominally foraging and traveling) to 41 male and 43 female adult grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) satellite telemetry tracks. The SSM results reveal markedly different spatial behavior between the sexes, fitting well with sexual size dimorphism and known dietary differences, suggesting that the sexes deal with seasonal prey availability and reproductive costs differently. From these results we were also able to produce behaviorally informed habitat use maps, showing a complex and dynamic network of small, intensely used foraging areas. Our flexible SSM approach clearly demonstrates sex-related behavioral differences, fine scale spatial and temporal foraging patterns, and a clearer picture of grey seal ecology and role in the Scotian Shelf ecosystem.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ecosystem
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Seals, Earless / physiology*
  • Seasons
  • Sex Characteristics*