A re-examination of the relationship between Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) diet and population trend using data from the Aleutian Islands

Canadian Journal of Zoology, e-First Articles. Prey diversity and energy density have been linked to each other and to population trends in many studies of bird and mammal diets. We re-examined these relationships in Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus (Schreber, 1776)) using data collected from the Aleutian Islands, where there has been a strong longitudinal gradient in population trend. Diet diversity and energy density metrics were similar in the western Aleutians, where sea lion counts declined consistently, and in the easternmost Aleutian area, where population trends improved significantly. We compared traditional deterministic diet diversity metrics with diversity scores based on an occupancy model that accounts for differences in sample size and uncertainty in prey group detection. This analysis indicated that there was no significant change in diet diversity over the 23-year study period or any significant differences across the Aleutian Islands. These results are consistent with prey abundance data from nine groundfish bottom trawl surveys conducted over the same period. While diet studies detail what Steller sea lions eat and provide an estimate of their energy intake, they provide only limited information on the energy expended to obtain their food or the consequences of their diet and foraging ecology on individual or population fitness.
Source: Canadian Journal of Zoology - Category: Zoology Authors: Source Type: research

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