Nicole Teutschel at UC Santa Cruz, Long Marine Lab--Today the E Seal Team got a glimpse into where Sebastian traveled during his 5 month journey at sea. Sebastian is an adult male elephant seal, Mirounga angustirostris, satellite tagged by TOPP last summer.
Sebastian wearing the SPOT Satellite tag. Photo: Nicole Teutschel
E Seal Team found Sebastian fast asleep at Año Nuevo and quickly jumped at the opportunity to recover his tags. Today, post doctoral researcher Samantha Simmons took a closer look at this big guy's story. Sebastian’s tag is a SPOT 4, which connects to the Argos Satellite System when Sebastian surfaced at sea. Some of the data was relayed back to the lab via satellite since the first day Sebastian entered the water with his new tag, but much of the data was stored in the tag...on the seal! Now that we have the tag in hand, Sam was able to download the tag onto her computer back at the lab. Sam created this image of Sebastian's path, or "track", using a computer program called MatLab.
Sebastians Satellite Track. This image was made from Argos Satellite hits and the MatLab program. Figure: Dr. Samantha Simmons
Male elephant seals forage deep on the benthos, or the sea floor. Males can travel all the way to the Aleutian Islands, in Alaska! Some swim up into the Bering Sea!!! Sebastian swam due North, to Queen Charlotte Island off Canada's British Columbia.
Sebastian's track an interesting one. Instead of traveling up to Alaska, stopping here and there to forage, he swam straight up hung out off Canada for the majority of his time at sea. Sebastian must have found a good food source between Quenn Charlotte Island and Canada because he was one BIG SEAL. Its pretty remarkable that he was able to stay in the same channel for most of his trip, and still weigh in at an estimated 3,500+ pounds.
This is a SPOT 4 satellite tag, the same model as the tag worn by Sebastian and many other northern elephant seals. Photo: Kevin Jones.
Stay tuned to learn more about the other tagged elephant seals! We'll relay infomation from the beach (and from the tags) throughout the E Seal breeding season.