Prey capture and processing behaviors vary with prey size and shape in Australian and subantarctic fur seals

David P Hocking, Erich M G Fitzgerald, Marcia Salverson, Alistair R Evans

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29 Citations (Scopus)


When hunting at sea, pinnipeds should adapt their foraging behaviors to suit the prey they are targeting. We performed captive feeding trials with two species of otariid seal, Australian fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus) and subantarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus tropicalis). This allowed us to record detailed observations of how their foraging behaviors vary when presented with prey items that cover the full range of body shapes and sizes encountered in the wild. Small prey were captured using suction alone, while larger prey items were caught in the teeth using raptorial biting. Small fish and long skinny prey items could then be swallowed whole or processed by shaking, while all prey items with body depths greater than 7.5 cm were processed by shaking at the water's surface. This matched opportunistic observations of feeding in wild Australian fur seals. Use of "shake feeding" as the main prey processing tactic also matches predictions that this method would be one of the only tactics available to aquatic tetrapods that are unable to secure prey using their forelimbs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)568-587
Number of pages20
JournalMarine Mammal Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Foraging behavior
  • Pinnipedia
  • Prey processing
  • Raptorial biting
  • Shake feeding
  • Suction feeding

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