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Wilson RP, Liebsch N, Gomez-Laich A, Kay WP, Bone A, Hobson VJ, Siebert U. (2015) Options for modulating intra-specific competition in colonial pinnipeds: the case of harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) in the Wadden Sea. PeerJ PrePrints3:e1020v1https://doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.1020v1
Colonial pinnipeds may be subject to substantial consumptive competition because they are large, slow-moving central place foragers. We examined possible mechanisms for reducing this competition by examining the diving behaviour of harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) after equipping 34 seals (11 females, 23 males) foraging from three locations; Rømø, Denmark and Lorenzenplate and Helgoland, Germany, in the Wadden Sea area with time-depth recorders. Analysis of 319,021 dives revealed little between-colony variation but appreciable inter-sex differences, with males diving deeper than females, but for shorter periods. Males also had higher vertical descent rates. This result suggests that males may have higher overall swim speeds, which would increase higher oxygen consumption, and may explain the shorter dive durations compared to females. Intersex variation in swim speed alone is predicted to lead to fundamental differences in the time use of three-dimensional space, which may help reduce consumptive competition in harbour seals and other colonial pinnipeds.
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