Document Type


Publication Date




Publication Title

Royal Society Open Science






220500 (1-26)


Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) are important predators in the Southern Ocean and are among the best-studied pinnipeds on Earth, yet much still needs to be learned about their year-round movements and foraging behaviour. Using biologgers, we tagged 62 post-moult Weddell seals in McMurdo Sound and vicinity between 2010 and 2012. Generalized additive mixed models were used to (i) explain and predict the probability of seal presence and foraging behaviour from eight environmental variables, and (ii) examine foraging behaviour in relation to dive metrics. Foraging probability was highest in winter and lowest in summer, and foraging occurred mostly in the water column or just above the bottom; across all seasons, seals preferentially exploited the shallow banks and deeper troughs of the Ross Sea, the latter providing a pathway for Circumpolar Deep Water to flow onto the shelf. In addition, the probability of Weddell seal occurrence and foraging increased with increasing bathymetric slope and where water depth was typically less than 600 m. Although the probability of occurrence was higher closer to the shelf break, foraging was higher in areas closer to shore and over banks. This study highlights the importance of overwinter foraging for recouping body mass lost during the previous summer.


© 2023 The Authors.

Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.

Data Availability

Article states: "All metadata on the individual animals, their body morphometrics, tracking and diving data have been archived and available at the U.S. Antarctic Program Data Center at the following URL: In addition tracking data were published as part of a larger Antarctic tracking data set and are reported at [154]."

"The data are provided in the electronic supplementary material [155]."

Link to data as shown in reference 155 is doi:10.6084/m9.figshare.c.6387866

Original Publication Citation

Goetz, K. T., Dinniman, M. S., Hückstädt, L. A., Robinson, P. W., Shero, M. R., Burns, J. M., Hofmann, E. E., Stammerjohn, S. E., Hazen, E. L., Ainley, D. G., & Costa, D. P. (2023). Seasonal habitat preference and foraging behaviour of post-moult Weddell seals in the western Ross Sea. Royal Society Open Science, 10(1), 1-26, Article 220500.


0000-0001-7519-9278 (Dinniman), 0000-0001-6710-4371 (Hofmann)


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