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Death age, seasonality, taphonomy and colonization of seal carcasses from Ulu Peninsula, James Ross Island, Antarctic Peninsula

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 September 2015

Daniel Nývlt*
Affiliation:
Department of Experimental Biology, Faculty of Science, Masaryk University, Kotlářská 2, 611 37 Brno, Czech Republic Czech Geological Survey, Brno branch, Leitnerova 22, 658 69 Brno, Czech Republic Department of Geography, Faculty of Science, Masaryk University, Kotlářská 2, 611 37 Brno, Czech Republic
Miriam Nývltová Fišáková
Affiliation:
Institute of Archaeology, v.v.i., Czech Academy of Science, Čechyňská 19, 602 00 Brno, Czech Republic
Miloš Barták
Affiliation:
Department of Experimental Biology, Faculty of Science, Masaryk University, Kotlářská 2, 611 37 Brno, Czech Republic
Zdeněk Stachoň
Affiliation:
Department of Geography, Faculty of Science, Masaryk University, Kotlářská 2, 611 37 Brno, Czech Republic
Václav Pavel
Affiliation:
Department of Zoology and Laboratory of Ornithology, Faculty of Science, Palacký University, 17, Listopadu 50, 771 46 Olomouc, Czech Republic
Bedřich Mlčoch
Affiliation:
Czech Geological Survey, Klárov 3, 118 21 Praha, Czech Republic
Kamil Láska
Affiliation:
Department of Geography, Faculty of Science, Masaryk University, Kotlářská 2, 611 37 Brno, Czech Republic

Abstract

The origin and nature of seal carcasses scattered around the Ulu Peninsula, James Ross Island, is examined using robust and novel multidisciplinary analysis. Spatial distribution analysis indicates their predominance at low elevations and on surfaces with negligible slope. The seals died throughout the last century. Dental cement increments indicate that the seals died in late winter, and we interpret this to show an influence of the persistence and break-up of sea ice and the appearance of pools/cracks in the northern Prince Gustav Channel on death. Specifically, after being trapped by a late winter freeze-up the seals search for open water, become disoriented by snow-covered flat valleys and move inland. Carcasses from all age groups of crabeater seal are found on land, but inland movement is less notable for Weddell and leopard seals. Although most carcasses appear to have remained unchanged during the last 10 years due to the cold and dry conditions, a few carcasses that are located in sites of snow accumulation and subsequent melting have undergone enhanced decay. Decaying seal carcasses represent loci of nutrient release in a nutrient deficient environment and are colonized by algae, cyanobacteria, lichens and mosses. This research suggests further useful studies for the future.

Type
Biological Sciences
Copyright
© Antarctic Science Ltd 2015 

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