Project Information
The Demographic Consequences of Environmental Variability and Individual Heterogeneity in Life-history Tactics of a Long-lived Antarctic Marine Predator
Start Date:
End Date:

The Erebus Bay population of Weddell seals in Antarctica?s Ross Sea is the most southerly breeding population of mammal in the world, closely associated with persistent shore-fast ice, and one that has been intensively studied since 1968. The resulting long-term database, which includes data for 20,586 marked individuals, contains detailed population information that provides an excellent opportunity to study linkages between environmental conditions and demographic processes in the Antarctic. The population?s location is of special interest as the Ross Sea is one of the most productive areas of the Southern Ocean, one of the few pristine marine environments remaining on the planet, and, in contrast to the Antarctic Peninsula and Arctic, is undergoing a gradual lengthening of the sea-ice season.
The work to be continued here capitalizes on (1) long-term data for individual seals and their polar environment; (2) experience collecting and analyzing data from the extensive study population; and (3) recent statistical advances in hierarchical modeling that allow for rigorous treatment of individual heterogeneity (in mark-recapture and body mass data) and inclusion of diverse covariates hypothesized to explain variation in fitness components. Covariates to be considered include traits of individuals and their mothers and environmental conditions throughout life.

The study will continue to (1) provide detailed data on known-age individuals to other science projects and (2) educate and mentor the next generation of ecologists through academic and professional training and research experiences.
Person Role
Rotella, Jay Investigator
Garrott, Robert Co-Investigator
Antarctic Organisms and Ecosystems Award # 1141326
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Data Management Plan
None in the Database
Product Level:
Not provided
  1. Brusa, J. L., Rotella, J. J., Garrott, R. A., Paterson, J. T., & Link, W. A. (2019). Variation of annual apparent survival and detection rates with age, year and individual identity in male Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) from long‐term mark‐recapture data. Population Ecology, 62(1), 134–150. (doi:10.1002/1438-390x.12036)
  2. Paterson, J. T., Rotella, J. J., Link, W. A., & Garrott, R. (2018). Variation in the vital rates of an Antarctic marine predator: the role of individual heterogeneity. Ecology, 99(10), 2385–2396. (doi:10.1002/ecy.2481)
  3. Chambert, T., Rotella, J. J., & Garrott, R. A. (2014). An evolutionary perspective on reproductive individual heterogeneity in a marine vertebrate. Journal of Animal Ecology, 83(5), 1158–1168. (doi:10.1111/1365-2656.12211)
  4. Paterson, J. T., Rotella, J. J., Mannas, J. M., & Garrott, R. A. (2016). Patterns of age‐related change in reproductive effort differ in the pre‐natal and post‐natal periods in a long‐lived mammal. Journal of Animal Ecology, 85(6), 1540–1551. (doi:10.1111/1365-2656.12577)
  5. Rotella, J. J., Paterson, J. T., & Garrott, R. A. (2016). Birth dates vary with fixed and dynamic maternal features, offspring sex, and extreme climatic events in a high‐latitude marine mammal. Ecology and Evolution, 6(7), 1930–1941. (doi:10.1002/ece3.1985)
  6. Salas, L., Nur, N., Ainley, D., Burns, J., Rotella, J., & Ballard, G. (2017). Coping with the loss of large, energy‐dense prey: a potential bottleneck for Weddell Seals in the Ross Sea. Ecological Applications, 27(1), 10–25. (doi:10.1002/eap.1435)
  7. Miller, J. M., Campbell, E. O., Rotella, J. J., Macdonald, K. R., Gelatt, T. S., & Davis, C. S. (2021). Evaluation of novel genomic markers for pedigree construction in an isolated population of Weddell Seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) at White Island, Antarctica. Conservation Genetics Resources. (doi:10.1007/s12686-021-01237-0)
Platforms and Instruments

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