We report on an accumulation of mummified southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) from Inexpressible Island on the Victoria Land Coast (VLC), western Ross Sea, Antarctica. This accumulation is unusual, as elephant seals typically breed and molt on sub‐Antarctic islands further north and do not currently occupy the VLC. Prior ancient DNA analyses revealed that these seals were part of a large, Antarctic breeding population that crashed ~1,000 yr ago. Radiocarbon dates for Inexpressible Island mummies range from 380 to 3,270 yr before present, too old to have been created by Scott's Northern Party in 1912 and varying too widely in age to represent a catastrophic death assemblage. Skeletal measurements reveal that most Inexpressible Island mummies are adult or subadult males. The presence of male elephant seals on Inexpressible Island until several hundred years ago suggests that, at a minimum, it served as a haul‐out site for the large Antarctic population and may have hosted a breeding colony. The conditions that allowed this Antarctic population to use the Ross Sea, the factors spurring its decline, and the implications for the adaptability and sensitivity of the species to environmental change all merit further study.

Mummified and skeletal southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina ) from the Victoria Land Coast, Ross Sea, Antarctica

Baroni, Carlo;Salvatore, Maria Cristina
Ultimo
2019-01-01

Abstract

We report on an accumulation of mummified southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) from Inexpressible Island on the Victoria Land Coast (VLC), western Ross Sea, Antarctica. This accumulation is unusual, as elephant seals typically breed and molt on sub‐Antarctic islands further north and do not currently occupy the VLC. Prior ancient DNA analyses revealed that these seals were part of a large, Antarctic breeding population that crashed ~1,000 yr ago. Radiocarbon dates for Inexpressible Island mummies range from 380 to 3,270 yr before present, too old to have been created by Scott's Northern Party in 1912 and varying too widely in age to represent a catastrophic death assemblage. Skeletal measurements reveal that most Inexpressible Island mummies are adult or subadult males. The presence of male elephant seals on Inexpressible Island until several hundred years ago suggests that, at a minimum, it served as a haul‐out site for the large Antarctic population and may have hosted a breeding colony. The conditions that allowed this Antarctic population to use the Ross Sea, the factors spurring its decline, and the implications for the adaptability and sensitivity of the species to environmental change all merit further study.
2019
Koch, Paul L.; Hall, Brenda L.; de Bruyn, Mark; Hoelzel, A. Rus; Baroni, Carlo; Salvatore, Maria Cristina
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11568/950528
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