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Overview

Distribution

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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Range Description

Subantarctic Fur Seals are widely-distributed in the southern Hemisphere. They breed on sub-Antarctic islands north of the Antarctic Polar Front, including Amsterdam (Guinet et al. 1994), the Crozets (Guinet et al. 1994), Gough (Bester et al. 2006), Macquarie (Shaughnessy 1993), the Prince Edward Islands (Bester et al. 2003, Hofmeyr et al. 2006a), Saint Paul (Guinet et al. 1994) and Tristan da Cunha (C. Glass pers. comm. in SCAR EGS 2004). They have also been recorded breeding on Heard Island (Goldsworthy and Shaughnessy 1989). Vagrants have been recorded on the coasts of Antarctica (Shaughnessy and Burton 1986), southern South America (Aguiar-dos Santos and Haimovici 2001, Bastida et al. 1999), southern Africa (Bester 1989, Shaughnessy and Ross 1980), Madagascar (Garrigue and Ross 1996), Australia (Gales et al. 1992), and New Zealand (Taylor 1990), and on Bouvetøya (Hofmeyr et al. 2006b), the Comores (David et al. 1993), the Juan Fernandez Islands (Torres and Aguayo 1984), Îles Kerguelen (Wynen et al. 2000), Mauritius (David and Salmon 2003) and South Georgia (Payne 1979).
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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

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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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 4-4.4 kg (Laws 1993). Females attain maturity at 5 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 6 days of arriving at the colony with oestrous and mating occurring 8-12 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). Trip durations of mothers increase over the course of lactation from 6-10 days to 23-28 days (Georges and Guinet 2000, Kirkman et al. 2002). Dives become deeper and slightly longer over the summer, starting at a mean depth of 16.6 m and increasing to 19 m. Dives are seldom deeper than 100 m or longer than 4 minutes (Georges et al. 2000).

Subantarctic Fur Seals are sympatric with other species of fur seals at three sites. Hybridization with Antarctic Fur Seals occurs at the Prince Edward Islands (Hofmeyr et al. 2006a) and the Îles Crozet (Guinet et al. 1994), and with both Antarctic Fur Seals and New Zealand Fur Seals at Macquarie Island (Goldsworthy et al. 1999).

Subantarctic Fur Seals are opportunistic and pelagic foragers. They feed on myctophid and notothenid fish, cephalopods, and small numbers of crustaceans at the Prince Edward Islands (Klages and Bester 1998) and at Macquarie Island (Robinson et al. 2002). At Amsterdam Island they are know to take Rockhopper Penguins (Paulian 1964).

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
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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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:

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

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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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Hofmeyr, G. & Kovacs, K. (IUCN SSC Pinniped Specialist Group)

Reviewer/s
Kovacs, K. & Lowry, L. (Pinniped Red List Authority)

Contributor/s

Justification
Due to its large and apparently increasing population size, the Subantarctic Fur Seal should remain classified as Least Concern.

IUCN Evaluation of the Subantarctic Fur Seal, Arctocephalus tropicalis
Prepared by the Pinniped Specialist Group

A. Population reduction
Declines measured over the longer of 10 years or 3 generations
A1 CR > 90%; EN > 70%; VU > 50%
Al. Population reduction observed, estimated, inferred, or suspected in the past where the causes of the reduction are clearly reversible AND understood AND have ceased, based on and specifying any of the following:
(a) direct observation
(b) an index of abundance appropriate to the taxon
(c) a decline in area of occupancy (AOO), extent of occurrence (EOO) and/or habitat quality
(d) actual or potential levels of exploitation
(e) effects of introduced taxa, hybridization, pathogens, pollutants, competitors or parasites.

All subpopulations of Subantarctic Fur Seals are currently either increasing or stable.

A2, A3 & A4 CR > 80%; EN > 50%; VU > 30%
A2. Population reduction observed, estimated, inferred, or suspected in the past where the causes of reduction may not have ceased OR may not be understood OR may not be reversible, based on (a) to (e) under A1.

All subpopulations of Subantarctic Fur Seals are currently either increasing or stable.

A3. Population reduction projected or suspected to be met in the future (up to a maximum of 100 years) based on (b) to (e) under A1.

A population reduction of Subantarctic Fur Seals is not expected in the future. It is possible, however, that global climate change may alter environmental conditions to the detriment of this species.

A4. An observed, estimated, inferred, projected or suspected population reduction (up to a maximum of 100 years) where the time period must include both the past and the future, and where the causes of reduction may not have ceased OR may not be understood OR may not be reversible, based on (a) to (e) under A1.

All subpopulations of Subantarctic Fur Seals are currently either increasing or stable. While a population reduction is not expected in the future, it is possible that global climate change may alter environmental conditions to the detriment of this species.

B. Geographic range in the form of either B1 (extent of occurrence) AND/OR B2 (area of occupancy)
B1.
Extent of occurrence (EOO): CR < 100 km²; EN < 5,000 km²; VU < 20,000 km²

The EOO of Subantarctic fur seals is > 20,000 km².

B2. Area of occupancy (AOO): CR < 10 km²; EN < 500 km²; VU < 2,000 km²

The AOO of Subantarctic fur seals is > 2,000 km².

AND at least 2 of the following:
(a)
Severely fragmented, OR number of locations: CR = 1; EN < 5; VU < 10
(b) Continuing decline in any of: (i) extent of occurrence; (ii) area of occupancy; (iii) area, extent and/or quality of habitat; (iv) number of locations or subpopulations; (v) number of mature individuals.
(c) Extreme fluctuations in any of: (i) extent of occurrence; (ii) area of occupancy; (iii) number of locations or subpopulations; (iv) number of mature individuals.

Subpopulations are not severely fragmented. Subantarctic Fur Seals are found at numerous breeding rookeries on eight islands or island groups. This species is not experiencing continuing decline or extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, number of subpopulations, number of mature individuals or area, extent or quality of habitat.

C. Small population size and decline
Number of mature individuals: CR < 250; EN < 2,500; VU < 10,000
AND either C1 or C2:
C1.
An estimated continuing decline of at least: CR = 25% in 3 years or 1 generation; EN = 20% in 5 years or 2 generations; VU = 10% in 10 years or 3 generations (up to a max. of 100 years in future)
C2. A continuing decline AND (a) and/or (b):
(a i) Number of mature individuals in each subpopulation: CR < 50; EN < 250; VU < 1,000
or
(a ii)
% individuals in one subpopulation: CR = 90–100%; EN = 95–100%; VU = 100%
(b) Extreme fluctuations in the number of mature individuals.

The current abundance of Subantarctic Fur Seals is well in excess of 10,000. The number of mature individuals in 5 of 8 subpopulations is estimated to be over 1000. Approximately 50 % of individuals belong to the Gough Island subpopulation.

D. Very small or restricted population
Number of mature individuals: CR < 50; EN < 250; VU < 1,000 AND/OR restricted area of occupancy typically: AOO < 20 km² or number of locations < 5

The current abundance of mature Subantarctic Fur Seals is well in excess of 1,000, the AOO is far larger than 20 km² and the number of locations is > 5.

E. Quantitative analysis
Indicating the probability of extinction in the wild to be: Indicating the probability of extinction in the wild to be: CR > 50% in 10 years or 3 generations (100 years max.); EN > 20% in 20 years or 5 generations (100 years max.); VU > 10% in 100 years

There has been no quantitative analysis of the probability of extinction of Subantarctic Fur Seals.

Listing recommendationEstimates indicate a Subantarctic Fur Seal abundance of several hundred thousand individuals breeding at numerous sites on eight islands or island groups. 95% of Subantarctic Fur Seals breed at just three of these sites: Gough Island, the Prince Edward Islands and Amsterdam Island. Two other subpopulations are estimated to contain of more than a 1,000 adults. All subpopulations are either stable or increasing. No major threats currently affect any subpopulations and it is unlikely that any will do so in the near future. This being said, Subantarctic Fur Seals may be affected by global climate change should it impact upon their abiotic environment or prey species. It should also be noted that Subantarctic Fur Seals experienced a severe population bottleneck during the 19th and 20th Centuries that has reduced their genetic variation and which may render this species vulnerable to disease or climate change. Under present conditions Subantarctic Fur Seals qualify for listing in the category Least Concern.
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Population

Population
The total population was estimated to be greater than 310,000 animals in 1987 and all indications are that it has been steadily growing since that time (SCAR EGS 2004). Subantarctic fur seals breed at numerous sites on eight islands or island groups. Some 95% of Subantarctic Fur Seals breed at three of these sites: Gough Island, the Prince Edward Islands and Amsterdam Island (Bester et al. 2003, Bester et al. 2006, Guinet et al. 1994, Hofmeyr et al. 2006a). Two other subpopulations are estimated to contain more than 1,000 adults (Guinet et al. 1994). All subpopulations are either stable or increasing (SCAR EGS 2004).

Population Trend
Increasing
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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. This population bottleneck has reduced their genetic variation and may render this species vulnerable to disease or climate change (Wynen et al. 2000).

Tourist visits at Subantarctic Fur Seal haulout sites are rare and thought to cause minimal disturbance (Kirkwood et al. 2003, Shirihai 2002). Few fisheries take place in waters occupied by this species (Hanchet et al. 2003). Entanglement in marine debris occurs at the Prince Edward Islands, but with incidences of less than 1% (Hofmeyr et al. 2002).

While the impact of climate change on fur seals is unknown, it is potentially detrimental (Chown et al. 1998, Learmonth et al. 2006). Fur seals are also at risk of mass mortality from infectious diseases, though breeding on isolated islands affords some species a higher degree of protection from disease (Chown et al. 1998, Lavigne and Schmitz 1990).
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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 (PEIMC 1996). 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). Listed on CITES Appendix II.
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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.

Contents

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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