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Overview

Distribution

Range Description

Subantarctic Fur Seals are widely-distributed in the southern hemisphere. They breed on Subantarctic islands north of the Antarctic Polar Front, including Amsterdam and Saint Paul Islands (Guinet et al. 1994), the sles Crozet (Kingston and Gwilliam 2007), Gough (Bester et al. 2006), Macquarie (Goldsworthy et al. 2009, Lancaster et al. 2006), the Prince Edward Islands (Bester et al. 2003, Hofmeyr et al. 2006a) and Tristan da Cunha (C. Glass pers. comm. in SCAR EGS 2008). Pupping has also been recorded on Heard Island (a single individual in multiple years; Goldsworthy and Shaughnessy 1989, Page et al. 2003). Vagrants have been recorded widely. They have been encountered on the coasts of a number of continents: Antarctica (Shaughnessy and Burton 1986), southern South America (Bastidaet al.199, 9Aguiar-dos Santos and Haimovici 2001), Africa (Shaughnessy and Ross 1980, Bester 1989), as far north as Tanzania (Hofmeyr and Amir 2010), Gabon (Zanre and Bester 2011) and Australia (Gales et al. 1992, Shaughnessy et al. 2014). They have also been recorded on numerous islands including Madagascar (Garrigue and Ross 1996), New Zealand (Taylor 1990), the Comores (David et al. 1993), the Juan Fernandez Islands (Torres and Aguayo 1984), les Kerguelen (Wynen et al. 2000), Mauritius (David and Salmon 2003), Bouvetya (Hofmeyr et al. 2006b) and South Georgia (Payne 1979).

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Subantarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus tropicalis) inhabit the Southern Hemisphere. They breed on islands north of Antarctica, including Amsterdam, the Crozets, Gough, Macquarie, Prince Edward, Saint Paul, and Tristan da Cunha islands. However, vagrant subantarctic fur seals have been recorded in South America, South Africa, and Australia, with the northernmost sighting off the Mayumba National Park in central Africa.

Biogeographic Regions: australian (Native ); oceanic islands (Native )

  • Hofmeyr, G., K. Kovacs. 2011. "Arctocephalus tropicalis" (On-line). IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed April 14, 2012 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/2062/0.
  • Zanre, R., M. Bester. 2011. Vagrant Subantarctic fur seal on the Mayumba National Park, Gabon. African Zoology, 46 (1): 185-187.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Males range from 70 to 165 kg and can grow up to 1.8 m in length. Females weigh between 25 and 67 kg and range from 1.19 to 1.52 m in length. Males have a chocolate brown to black back and a yellow chest and face. There is a crest of black fur on the head that is erected when the animal becomes excited. Females have dark gray or chocolate brown dorsal fur and pale yellow fur on their chest, neck, and face. At birth, pups are black with a chocolate brown underside. Both sexes have long, white vibrissae and external ear flaps.

Range mass: 25 to 165 kg.

Range length: 1.2 to 1.8 m.

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger; sexes colored or patterned differently

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

  • Strahan, R. 1995. Mammals of Australia. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Subantarctic Fur Seals are sexually dimorphic, with adult males being up to 1.8 m long and weighing 70-165 kg, adult females are 1.19-1.52 m long and weigh 25-67 kg, with a mean of around 50 kg. Newborns weigh 4.0-4.4 kg (Laws 1993). Females attain sexual maturity at five years of age (Bester 1995). Gestation lasts 51 weeks. Longevity is unknown (Reijnders et al. 1993).

Subantarctic Fur Seals are polygynous, males defend territories with vocal and postural displays and fighting (Bester 1981, Kerley 1983). They prefer rough rocky or boulder beaches with sources of shade or exposure to prevailing winds (Bester 1982). Pups are born from late October to early January, with a peak in mid-December. Females give birth within six days of arriving at the colony with oestrous and mating occurs eight to 12 days later. Females spend the time between the births of their pups and oestrous with their newborn before mating and departing for the first of a series of foraging trips they will make before weaning their pup at approximately 11 months of age (Bester 1981,Kerley 1983,Goldsworthy 1999). Trip durations of mothers increase over the course of lactation from six to 10 days to 23-28 days (Goldsworthy 1999,Georges and Guinet 2000,Kirkman et al. 2002). Dives become deeper and slightly longer over the summer. Dives are seldom deeper than 100 m (but up to 208 m) or longer than four minutes (Georges et al. 2000). Foraging behaviour varies between subpopulations (Robinsonet al.2002, Beauplet et al. 2004,Bailleulet al.2005,de Bruyn et al. 2009).

Subantarctic Fur Seals are opportunistic and pelagic foragers. They feed on myctophid and notothenid fish, cephalopods, and small numbers of crustaceans at Gough Island (Bester and Laycock 1985), the Prince Edward Islands (Klages and Bester 1998, Makhado et al. 2013), Macquarie Island (Goldsworthy et al. 1997, Robinson et al. 2002) and the Isles Crozet (Cherel et al. 2007, Kernalguen et al. 2012). At Amsterdam Island they have been recorded to take Rockhopper Penguins (Paulian 1964).

Subantarctic Fur Seals are sympatric with other species of Fur Seals at three sites. Low levels of hybridization with Antarctic Fur Seals occurs at the Prince Edward Islands (Hofmeyr et al. 2006a) and the les Crozet (Kingston and Gwilliam 2007). Hybridization occurs with both Antarctic Fur Seals and New Zealand Fur Seals at Macquarie Island (Lancasteret al.2006,Goldsworthy et al. 2009, Lancaster et al.2010).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Marine
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Depth range based on 24 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 24 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 0
  Temperature range (°C): 1.883 - 15.471
  Nitrate (umol/L): 3.046 - 26.539
  Salinity (PPS): 33.870 - 35.265
  Oxygen (ml/l): 5.787 - 7.723
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.445 - 1.800
  Silicate (umol/l): 3.083 - 19.880

Graphical representation

Temperature range (°C): 1.883 - 15.471

Nitrate (umol/L): 3.046 - 26.539

Salinity (PPS): 33.870 - 35.265

Oxygen (ml/l): 5.787 - 7.723

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.445 - 1.800

Silicate (umol/l): 3.083 - 19.880
 
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Males spend the winter season out at sea, coming to shore in the spring to breed. Females with dependent young return to land from foraging trips at intervals throughout the year to feed their offspring. In the summer, females spend approximately 6 to 10 days at sea during a single foraging trip, and in winter foraging bouts increase to approximately 23 to 28 days. Between foraging trips, females spend about 4 days on land with pups. Subantarctic fur seals prefer rocky beaches with abundant boulders and shade. Adults can dive an average of 16 to 19 m deep in waters above 14 degrees Celcius for up to 4 minutes.

Range depth: 100 (high) m.

Average depth: 19 m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; saltwater or marine

Aquatic Biomes: coastal

  • Georges, J., F. Bonadonna, C. Guinet. 2000. Foraging habitat and diving activity of lactating Subantarctic fur seals in relation to sea-surface temperatures at Amsterdam Island. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 196: 291-304.
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Depth range based on 24 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 24 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 0
  Temperature range (°C): 1.883 - 15.471
  Nitrate (umol/L): 3.046 - 26.539
  Salinity (PPS): 33.870 - 35.265
  Oxygen (ml/l): 5.787 - 7.723
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.445 - 1.800
  Silicate (umol/l): 3.083 - 19.880

Graphical representation

Temperature range (°C): 1.883 - 15.471

Nitrate (umol/L): 3.046 - 26.539

Salinity (PPS): 33.870 - 35.265

Oxygen (ml/l): 5.787 - 7.723

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.445 - 1.800

Silicate (umol/l): 3.083 - 19.880
 
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Trophic Strategy

Subantarctic fur seals feed on a variety of marine animals including myctophid and notothenid fish, cephalopods, crustaceans, and sometimes even rockhopper penguins.

Animal Foods: birds; fish; mollusks; aquatic crustaceans

Primary Diet: carnivore (Piscivore , Eats non-insect arthropods, Molluscivore )

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Associations

Subantarctic fur seals are an important food source for sharks and orcas, and a key predator of myctophid, notothenid fish, cephalopods, crustaceans, and rockhopper penguins.

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Subantarctic fur seals are known to be preyed upon by killer whales and sharks. Because of relatively large population sizes, predation does not present a major threat to subantarctic fur seal populations.

Known Predators:

  • killer whale (Orcinus orca)
  • sharks (Carcharhiniformes)

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

  • Reisinger, R., P. de Bruyn, M. Bester. 2011. Predatory impact of killer whales on pinniped and penguin populations at the Subantarctic Prince Edward Islands: fact and fiction. Journal of Zoology, 285: 1-10.
  • Souto, L., J. Abrao-Oliveira, R. Maia-Nogueira, L. Dorea-Reis. 2009. Interactions between subantarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus tropicalis) and cookiecutter shark (Isistius plutodus) on the coast of Bahia, north-eastern Brazil. Marine Biodiversity Records, 2: 1-2.
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

A female uses auditory communication to find and identify her pup when she hauls out to nurse. She emits a "contact call" to which hundreds of pups respond; she must then distinguish her offspring from the rest. Each pup has a unique call that is recognized by the mother. The mother uses sight and smell to a lesser extent to verify the pup’s identity before nursing. Males utilize auditory, visual, and tactile communication while competing for breeding territories. They use vocalizations, postural dominance and threat displays, as well as participating in physical fights.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Life Expectancy

There is little information available about the lifespan of subantarctic fur seals either in captivity or in the wild. However, studies have recorded reproductive females living up to 16 years, and non-reproductive females up to 19 years. Even less is known about male longevity. In a related species, the New Zealand fur seal, males can live to 15 years of age.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
16 to 19 years.

  • Dabin, W., G. Beauplet, E. Crespo, C. Guinet. 2004. Age structure, growth, and demographic parameters in breeding-age female Subantarctic fur seals, Arctocephalus tropicalis. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 82 (7): 1043-1050.
  • McKenzie, J., B. Page, M. Hindell. 2007. Age and reproductive maturity of New Zealand fur seals (Arctocephalus forsteri) in Southern Australia. Journal of Mammalogy, 88 (3): 639-648.
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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Observations: Little is known about the longevity of these animals, but one wild born specimen was still living in captivity at about 18.5 years of age (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Reproduction

Subantarctic fur seals are polygynous with a harem mating system in which males defend territories containing from 6 to 20 females. Males come to shore in October and compete for territories; they will defend their territory and harem until all of the females have been mated.

Mating System: polygynous

Offspring are born in the southern spring and summer (October through January). Mating occurs once per year, approximately 8 to 12 days after parturition. Males are fertile only during this time, conserving energy during the winter by ceasing sperm production throughout the off season. A female gives birth to one offspring per season after a gestation period of 51 weeks. Although there are documented cases of a female successfully rearing twins, this is a rare occurrence.

Subantarctic Fur Seal pups are born weighing between 4 and 6 kg. Male pups grow faster, and have a higher weaning weight than females. Mothers nurse pups until 11 months of age, shortly before giving birth to their next pup. In males, puberty is reached at 3 to 4 years of age, but full adulthood is not achieved until 10 to 11 years of age, when males are first able to acquire a harem. Females are sexually mature at approximately 5 years of age.

Breeding interval: Subantarctic fur seals breed once per year.

Breeding season: Mating occurs from October through January.

Average number of offspring: 1.

Average gestation period: 51 weeks.

Average weaning age: 11 months.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 5 years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 10 to 11 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous ; post-partum estrous

Average birth mass: 4420 g.

Average gestation period: 357 days.

Average number of offspring: 1.

Female subantarctic fur seals nurse their offspring for 11 months, leaving to forage at regular intervals. Upon returning to shore, females must find their pup among the hundreds located at the rookery. Each pup has a unique vocal signature that the female uses to locate her offspring; once the pup is found, she uses sight and smell to verify its identity before allowing it to suckle. Recognition of offspring is essential to prevent her from feeding the wrong pup. Males leave the rookery after each female is mated and do not return to assist in parental care.

Parental Investment: precocial ; female parental care ; pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female)

  • Bester, M. 1990. Reproduction in the male sub-Antarctic fur seal Arctocephalus tropicalis. Journal of Zoology, London, 222: 177-185.
  • Bester, M., G. Kerley. 1983. Rearing of twin pups to weaning by sub-Antarctic fur-seal Arctocephalus tropicalis female. South African Journal of Wildlife Research, 13: 86-87.
  • Charrier, I., N. Mathevon, P. Jouventin. 2002. How does a fur seal mother recognize the voice of her pup? An experimental study of Arctocephalus tropicalis. The Journal of Experimental Biology, 205: 603-612.
  • Hofmeyr, G., K. Kovacs. 2011. "Arctocephalus tropicalis" (On-line). IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed April 14, 2012 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/2062/0.
  • Strahan, R. 1995. Mammals of Australia. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2015

Assessor/s
Hofmeyr, G.J.G.

Reviewer/s
Goldsworthy, S.D.

Contributor/s

Justification

Subantarctic Fur Seals should be listed asLeast Concern despite a decline at one of the three major subpopulations. This decline is recent, relatively slow (a mean annual rate of -6.4 % for the period 2002/03 2012/13), and its causes are not yet understood. Abundance of the other major subpopulations is inferred to be stable. The global population was estimated to be over 400,000 animals in the early 2000s. About 99% of pup production occurs at three sites, with small subpopulations found at five other sites. Of concern is the absence of recent complete assessments of abundance for two of the major subpopulations, which together comprise an estimated 74% of the global total. No subpopulations are isolated and movement takes place between them. No subpopulation, nor the species as a whole, is likely to become extinct in the near future. The effects of global climate change on Fur Seal habitat, and the abundance and distribution of prey species, is a possible threat. This especially true in light of the reduced genetic diversity of this species as a result of the population bottleneck it was subject to. Other threats, including the impact of fishing industries and entanglement in anthropogenic debris, remain low.


History
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • 1996
    Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
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Although the population of subantarctic fur seals are currently stable or growing, with a total of over 310,000 individuals, there are several factors that could put this species at risk. After a large population decline during the 18th and 19th centuries, the current population is the product of a severe bottleneck that reduced genetic diversity. A loss of genetic diversity of this magnitude can make a population especially vulnerable to disease and other environmental perturbations, such as climate change.

CITES: appendix ii

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Population

Population
The global population of Subantarctic Fur Seals was estimated to be greater than 400,000 animals in the early 2000s (SCAR EGS 2008). Subantarctic Fur Seals breed at numerous sites on eight islands or island groups, and approximately 99% of Subantarctic Fur Seals breed at three of those sites. Some 63% of global pup production is estimated to take place at Gough Island (Bester et al. 2006), 25% at the Prince Edward Islands (Hofmeyr et al. 2006a,Besteret al.2009,Wege et al. In prep) and 11% at Amsterdam Island (Guinet et al. 1994). Pup production at other sites is a few tens or hundreds at each site (SCAR EGS 2008). These estimates are subject to two provisos. First, of the five islands within the sles Crozet, the abundance of Fur Seals has been determined only on le de la Possession (Guinet et al. 1994). Second, due to the nature of their terrestrial habitat and the isolation of their haulout sites, determining Subantarctic Fur Seal abundance is difficult and it is often inferred from counts of small portions of a subpopulation (Guinetet al.1994,Bester et al. 2006).

The estimated abundance of the three main subpopulations has increased over the last few decades and is currently either largely stable or decreasing. The Gough Island subpopulation was stable or had increased slightly between 1975 and 2005, as inferred from counts of selected sites (Bester et al. 2006). The Amsterdam Island population was inferred to be stable between 1982 and 2002, also based on counts of selected sites (Guinet et al. 1994, Guinet pers. comm. in SCAR EGS 2008). More recent estimates of abundance are needed for both Gough and Amsterdam Islands. Complete pup counts indicate that Subantarctic Fur Seal abundance at both islands within the Prince Edward Islands (PEI) increased steadily from 1981 to the early 2000s (Bester et al. 2003, Hofmeyr et al. 2006a). However, pup production at Marion Island (within the Prince Edward Islands) declined by 6.4% between 2003/2004 and 2012/2013 (Wege et al. in prep.). At Prince Edward Island itself, pup production remained very close to stable between 2001/2002 and 2008/2009 (0.3% mean annual decline; Bester et al. 2009) but it is unknown whether it has since experienced a reduction since then like that at Marion Island. Early evidence indicates that the decline at Marion Island might have been due to a reduction in female fecundity following a density dependent limitation of prey resources (Wege et al. in prep.).

Generation length has been calculated at 10.7 years (Pacifici et al. 2013). Population change over the three generations from 19812012 has been positive (Guinetet al.1994, SCAR EGS 2008,Bester et al. 2009, Wege et al. in prep.).

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
Similar to all of the other southern Fur Seals, Subantarctic Fur Seals were over-exploited by sealers in the 18th and 19th century and were reduced to the brink of extinction at the beginning of the 20th century. Since then their population has increased rapidly and they have reoccupied much of their former range (Bester 1987,Kerley 1987, Roux 1987,Guinet et al. 1994). While the abundance of two of the major subpopulations are thought to be stable (Guinet et al. 1994,Besteret al.2006,SCAR EGS 2008), that of the third has recently decreased (Bester et al. 2009, Wege et al. in prep.). Wege et al. (in prep.) suggest that this may be due to the effects of density dependent food limitation on adult female fecundity. It is also possible that climate change has played a role in the decline. Climate change is potentially detrimental to Fur Seals through impacts on the abundance and distribution of prey species and changes in environmental conditions (Learmonthet al.2006,Kovacs et al. 2012, McDonald et al. 2012,McBrideet al.2014).

Few fisheries take place in waters occupied by this species but fisheries may expand in their range (Hanchet et al. 2003). Anthropogenic marine debris, primarily from the fishing industry is responsible for entanglements. At the Prince Edward Islands incidences of debris entanglement are less than one percent for the combined Antarctic/Subantarctic Fur Seal populations (Hofmeyr et al. 2002).

Fur seals are also at risk of mass mortality from infectious diseases because of they congregate in large numbers, and because they were subject to a population bottleneck that has reduced their genetic variation (Lavigne and Schmitz 1990, Wynen et al. 2000). The isolation of their breeding habitat, however, affords them some degree of protection (Lavigne and Schmitz 1990,Chown et al. 1998). The small recovering population at Macquarie Island is at risk from predation by New Zealand Sea Lions and hybridization (Robinson et al. 1999,Goldsworthyet al.2008).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions

Subantarctic Fur Seals live in some of the most remote oceanic areas and breed on many of the most isolated islands on Earth. All of the breeding islands are managed as protected areas or parks by the governments that claim these territories. Seals on the Prince Edward Islands are protected by the South African Sea Bird and Seal Protection Act of 1973 and also inhabit a special nature reserve and a marine protected area (PEIMP 2010). Seals on Gough and Tristan Islands are protected by the Tristan da Cunha Conservation Ordinance of 1976. Amsterdam and Saint Paul Islands are regulated by the French Chamber of Deputies, while at Macquarie Island, the Fur Seals are protected by the Tasmanian Department of Parks, Wildlife, and Heritage (Reijnders et al. 1993) and by the Australian Governments Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999), under which they are listed as a Threatened Species (Vulnerable category) based on the low number of individuals breeding in the Australian region.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

There are no known adverse effects of subantarctic fur seals on humans.

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In the 18th and 19th centuries, subantarctic fur seals were hunted to the brink of extinction for their pelts. Today, due to measures taken by local governments, the seals are protected on preserved land. Subantarctic fur seals are of potential interest to tourists, however tourism is relatively rare in the remote locations that seals inhabit.

Positive Impacts: body parts are source of valuable material; ecotourism

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Wikipedia

Subantarctic fur seal

The subantarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus tropicalis) is found in the southern parts of the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic Oceans. It was first described by Gray in 1872 from a specimen recovered in northern Australia—hence the inappropriate specific name tropicalis.

Description[edit]

The subantarctic fur seal is medium-sized compared with other fur seals. Males grow to 2 m and 160 kg, whereas females are substantially smaller—1.4 m and 50 kg. Both sexes have distinctive, creamy-orange chests and faces. Their bellies are more brownish. Males have a dark grey to black back. The females are lighter grey. Pups are black at birth, but molt at about three months old. The snout is short and flat. The flippers are short and broad. Subantarctic fur seals live for about 20–25 years.

Distribution[edit]

Subantarctic fur seals are geographically widespread. As their name implies, they generally breed in more northerly locations than the Antarctic fur seals. The largest breeding colonies are on Gough Island in the south Atlantic and Île Amsterdam in the southern part of the Indian Ocean. Breeding grounds are also found at Marion Island in the Prince Edward Islands (where there is an overlap with Antarctic fur seals), Crozet Islands and the Macquarie Island. Where grounds overlap, the subantarctic species can be identified by the orange colour on the chest.

About 300,000 of the species alive today, probably substantially down from when they were first discovered in 1810, as they were hunted for their pelts throughout the 19th century. Populations are recovering rapidly, though, in most areas whilst under the protection of the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals. A small population on Heard Island is endangered. Unlike the Antarctic fur seal, whose genetic variation is low due to hunting making all but one breeding colony extinct by 1900, the diversity amongst subantarctic specimens remains high.

Diet[edit]

Subantarctic fur seals hunt in shallow waters at night, when myctophid fish come close to the surface. They also feed on squid.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hofmeyr, G. & Kovacs, K. (2008). Arctocephalus tropicalis. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 30 January 2009.

Further reading[edit]

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