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Seals swimming up to 2000 kilometres through Antarctic waters to find a meal, raising suggestions that something has disrupted Southern Ocean food supply

Posted by gmarkets on 26 September, 2007

Taronga Zoo marine specialists were fighting to save the life of the second Antarctic leopard seal to be washed up on a Sydney beach in a week. Leopard seals were very rare in Sydney’s waters, said Geoff Ross, a wildlife management officer with the National Parks and Wildlife Service: “We might see one every two or three years.” he said finding two in a week was extraordinary. “They are Antarctic ice dwellers which seldom wander further north than Macquarie Island.”

Had climate change changed Antarctic food chain? Ross speculated the seals might have been washed towards Sydney by the Southern Ocean storms that helped drive Sydney’s unusually heavy winter rain. Australian scientists reported last month that they had used satellites to track southern elephant seals swimming up to 2000 kilometres through Antarctic waters to find a meal, raising suggestions that something has disrupted their normal Southern Ocean food supply, and forced them to hunt further afield. Mr Ross said one possibility was that climate change had reduced the Antarctic food chain. “It’s still a bit of a mystery,” he said. “We can hypothesise about why the seals are here but we really don’t have good solid answers.”

The Sydney Morning Herald, 12/9/2007, p. 5

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