Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Seal carrion is a predictable resource for coastal ecosystems

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Maria-Martina Quaggiotto, Philip S. Barton, Christopher D. Morris, Simon E. W. Moss, Patrick P. Pomeroy, Dominic J. McCafferty, David M. Bailey

School/Research organisations


The timing, magnitude, and spatial distribution of resource inputs can have large effects on dependent organisms. Few studies have examined the predictability of such resources and no standard ecological measure of predictability exists. We examined the potential predictability of carrion resources provided by one of the UK's largest grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) colonies, on the Isle of May, Scotland. We used aerial (11 years) and ground surveys (3 years) to quantify the variability in time, space, quantity (kg), and quality (MJ) of seal carrion during the seal pupping season. We then compared the potential predictability of seal carrion to other periodic changes in food availability in nature. An average of 6893 kg of carrion ∙yr−1 corresponding to 110.5 × 103 MJ yr−1 was released for potential scavengers as placentae and dead animals. A fifth of the total biomass from dead seals was consumed by the end of the pupping season, mostly by avian scavengers. The spatial distribution of carcasses was similar across years, and 28% of the area containing >10 carcasses ha−1 was shared among all years. Relative standard errors (RSE) in space, time, quantity, and quality of carrion were all below 34%. This is similar to other allochthonous-dependent ecosystems, such as those affected by migratory salmon, and indicates high predictability of seal carrion as a resource. Our study illustrates how to quantify predictability in carrion, which is of general relevance to ecosystems that are dependent on this resource. We also highlight the importance of carrion to marine coastal ecosystems, where it sustains avian scavengers thus affecting ecosystem structure and function.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-51
Number of pages11
JournalActa Oecologica
Early online date19 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018

    Research areas

  • Predictability, Resource subsidy, Coastal, Carcass, Pinniped, Relative standard error, Scavenger

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Harbour Seal Decline - vital rates and drivers: Report to Scottish Government MMSS/002/15

    Arso Civil, M., Smout, S. C., Duck, C. D., Morris, C., Onoufriou, J., Thompson, D., Brownlow, A., Davison, N., Cummings, C., Pomeroy, P., McConnell, B. J. & Hall, A. J., Jun 2016, SMRU. 63 p.

    Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

  2. An external telemetry system for recording resting heart rate variability and heart rate in free-ranging large wild mammals

    Twiss, S. D., Brannan, N., Shuert, C. R., Bishop, A. M., Pomeroy, P. P. & Moss, S., 4 Jun 2021, In: PLoS ONE. 16, 6, 22 p., e0252013.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  3. Modeling recruitment of birth cohorts to the breeding population: a hidden Markov model approach

    Worthington, H., King, R., McCrea, R., Smout, S. C. & Pomeroy, P., 1 Mar 2021, In: Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. 9, 13 p., 600967.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  4. Aerial photogrammetry and tag-derived tissue density reveal patterns of lipid-store body condition of humpback whales on their feeding grounds

    Aoki, K., Isojunno, S., Bellot, C., Iwata, T., Kershaw, J. L., Akiyama, Y., Martín López, L. M., Ramp, C., Biuw, M., Swift, R. J., Wensveen, P., Pomeroy, P., Narazaki, T., Hall, A. J., Sato, K. & Miller, P., 27 Jan 2021, In: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences. 288, 1943, 10 p., 20202307.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  5. Atlantic grey seal milk shows continuous changes in key metabolites and indicators of metabolic transition in pups from birth to weaning

    Watson, D., Pomeroy, P. & Kennedy, M., 11 Jan 2021, In: Frontiers in Marine Science. 7, 13 p., 596904.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

ID: 252704360