Spatial and temporal variation in the diet of the California sea lion (Zalophus californianus) in the Gulf of California, Mexico


Garcia-Rodriguez, Francisco J., and David Aurioles-Gamboa
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Between June 1995 and May 1996 seven rookeries in the Gulf of California were visited four times in order to collect scat samples for studying spatial and seasonal variability California sea lion prey. The rookeries studied were San Pedro Mártir, San Esteban, El Rasito, Los Machos, Los Cantiles, Isla Granito, and Isla Lobos. The 1273 scat samples collected yielded 4995 otoliths (95.3%) and 247 (4.7%) cephalopod beaks. Fish were found in 97.4% of scat samples collected, cephalopods in 11.2%, and crustaceans in 12.7%. We identified 92 prey taxa to the species level, 11 to genus level, and 10 to family level, of which the most important were Pacific cutlassfish (Trichiurus lepturus), Pacific sardine (Sardinops caeruleus), plainfin midshipman (Porichthys spp.), myctophid no. 1, northern anchovy (Engraulis mordax), Pacific mackerel (Scomber japonicus), anchoveta (Cetengraulis mysticetus), and jack mackerel (Trachurus symmetricus). Significant differences were found among rookeries in the occurrence of all main prey (P≤0.04), except for myctophid no. 1 (P>0.05). Temporally, significant differences were found in the occurrence of Pacific cutlassfish, Pacific sardine, plainfin midshipman, northern anchovy, and Pacific mackerel (P<0.05), but not in jack mackerel (χ2=2.94, df=3, P=0.40), myctophid no. 1 (χ2=1.67, df=3, P=0.64), or lanternfishes (χ2=2.08, df=3, P=0.56). Differences were observed in the diet and in trophic diversity among seasons and rookeries. More evident was the variation in diet in relation to availability of Pacific sardine.