The animals lay side by side on the beach and wait for their fur to shed. J. Plötz / Alfred Wegener Institute
The scientists also take days of walking over the ”island of horizontal rain“ into the bargain to achieve their research goal. “The elephant seals of Marion Island are very loyal to their location. They return to this island time and again to moult and mate. This behaviour gives us the opportunity to consistently fit measuring devices to the same animals thereby gaining an insight into the movement patterns of individual animals. Their movement and dive routes help us to find out where the oceanic food grounds of the Marion Island elephant seals are located“, explains Joachim Plötz.
The extent to which the animals of this rather northerly elephant seal colony are able to adapt to the warming of the ocean remains to be seen. The scientists from Germany and South Africa see only two alternatives for the animals: either the seals extend their hunting grounds to the colder water masses of the Antarctic or they must dive even deeper in future. The elephant seals from Marion Island are very close to reaching their physiological limits even in their dive behaviour today. This leads the biologists to assume that this may reduce the survival rate of the seals in the long term.
Your contact partners at the Alfred Wegener Institute are Dr. Horst Bornemann (Tel: +49 (0)471 4831-1862; email: Horst.Bornemann(at)awi.de) and Dr. Joachim Plötz (Tel: +49 (0)471 4831-1309; email: Joachim.Ploetz(at)awi.de) and Dr. Trevor McIntyre (Tel.: 0027 (0) 73 350 1930; email: tmcintyre(at)zoology.up.ac.za) and in the Communication and Media Department of the Alfred Wegener Institute Sina Löschke (Tel: +49 (0)471 4831-2008; email: Sina.Loeschke(at)awi.de).
The Alfred Wegener Institute conducts research in the Arctic and Antarctic and in the high and mid-latitude oceans. The Institute coordinates German polar research and provides important infrastructure such as the research ice breaker Polarstern and research stations in the Arctic and Antarctic to the national and international scientific world. The Alfred Wegener Institute is one of the 18 research centres of the Helmholtz Association, the largest scientific organisation in Germany.
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