Elephant Seals May Use Bioluminescence to Find Food

Written by on September 3, 2012 in Marine Life

Biologists have discovered a new possible method by which elephant sealsfind their prey.

Elephant seals. photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikebaird/3186775396/">mikebaird</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photo pin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>

Elephant seals. photo credit: mikebaird via photo pin cc

Southern elephant seals are not like whales that use echolocation to find their prey, or penguins that rely on smell; in fact, researchers had little idea as to how they found their food in the dark deep sea where they forage.

The seals prey primarily on lanternfish, which are bioluminescent.  The fish glow as a method of communication and as a way to hide from or distract predators.

Researchers tagged several seals with devices that recorded temperature, depth, level of light and duration of dives and then analyzed data from 3,386 dives.  The researchers found that elephant seals locate lanternfish through sight, using the bioluminescence to guide them to good foraging areas.

“The initial topic of the study was absolutely not dedicated to bioluminescence,” explained researcher Jade Vacquié-Garcia, a marine biologist at the Center for Biological Studies of Chize in France.  “The light sensor was originally aimed to see if there was a link between the depth of penetration of light from above and how productive a depth was.”

Copyright © 2012 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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