Lower marine productivity increases agonistic interactions between sea lions and fur seals in Northern Pacific Patagonia

Curr Zool. 2022 Feb 3;68(6):657-666. doi: 10.1093/cz/zoac006. eCollection 2022 Dec.


Interspecific interactions are key drivers of individual and population-level fitness in a wide range of animals. However, in marine ecosystems, it is relatively unknown which biotic and abiotic factors impact behavioral interactions between competing species. We assessed the impact of weather, marine productivity, and population structure on the behavioral agonistic interactions between South American fur seals (SAFSs), Arctocephalus australis, and South American sea lions (SASLs), Otaria byronia, in a breeding colony of SAFS. We hypothesized that agonistic interactions between SAFSs and SASLs respond to biotic and abiotic factors such as SAFS population structure, marine productivity, and weather. We found that SASL and SAFS interactions almost always resulted in negative impacts on the social structure or reproductive success of the SAFS colony. SASL adult males initiated stampedes of SAFS and/or abducted and predated SAFS pups. Adult SAFS males abundance and severe weather events were negatively correlated with agonistic interactions between species. However, proxies for lower marine productivity such as higher sea surface temperature and lower catches of demerso-pelagic fish were the most important predictors of more frequent agonistic interactions between SAFS and SASL. Under the current scenario of decline in marine biomass due to global climate change and overfishing, agonistic interactions between competing marine predators could increase and exacerbate the negative impacts of environmental change in these species.

PMID:36864890 | PMC:PMC9972520 | DOI:10.1093/cz/zoac006


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