Cephalopod diet of the southern elephant seal, Mirounga leonina, at King George Island, South Shetland Islands
In the summer of 1995/96, 25 southern elephant seals, Mirounga leonina, were stomach lavaged at Stranger Point, King George Island, South Shetland Islands. Cephalopod remains were present in 72% of the individuals sampled (n = 18). Seven species of squid and three of octopus were identified. The squid Psychroteuthis glacialis was the most important prey in terms of numbers (77%), biomass (80.8%) and frequency of occurrence (94.4%). Next in importance in terms of mass was the squid Alluroteuthis antarcticus (7.8%) in the diet of females and the octopodid Pareledone ?charcoti in the diet of males (13.2%). Females preyed on a wider variety of squid taxa than males (7 vs 3) but octopodids occurred only in stomach contents from males. The predominance of P. glacialis in the prey of the South Shetland Islands elephant seals can be explained by the southerly location of the foraging areas of this population compared to South Georgia, Heard and Macquarie islands, where the diet of southern elephant seals has previously been analysed. Psychroteuthis glacialis is the predominant squid in waters close to the Antarctic continent.