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

  • Daniel Nývlt (a1) (a2) (a3), Miriam Nývltová Fišáková (a4), Miloš Barták (a1), Zdeněk Stachoň (a3), Václav Pavel (a5), Bedřich Mlčoch (a6) and Kamil Láska (a3)...

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.

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