Credit: Martín Ignacio Brogger

Feisty squid and fish fight back by dazzling elephant seals

Embargoed until: Publicly released:
Peer-reviewed: This work was reviewed and scrutinised by relevant independent experts.

Squid and fish would seem to have little defence against elephant seal attacks, but their ability to produce bioluminescence may serve as a diversion strategy. To investigate this further, a team of scientists attached light sensitive tags to a group of five elephant seals on the Kerguelen Islands in the Southern Ocean, and two seals in Argentina. Their results suggest that squid and lantern fish perform a feisty strike back against attack by dazzling their foes with a bioluminescent flash that disorientates the seals and could buy time for their escape.

 

Journal/conference: Journal of Experimental Biology

DOI: 10.1242/jeb.222810

Organisation/s: University of St Andrews, UK

Funder: Developments of the DTAG-4 light was supported by the Foundation BNPParibas as part of the SENSEI Program and the CNES-TOSCA program (elephant seals as sub-mesoscale bio-samplers of biological fields in relation to in situ oceanographic conditions) and the SNO-MEMO (PI C.G.). Fieldwork in Kerguelen was supported by the French Polar Institute (Institut Polaire Français Paul Emile Victor) as part of the Cycle Eleph Programme (no. 1201, PI C. Gilbert). Fieldwork in Peninsula Valdes was supported by CNES-TOSCA (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales)aspartofaFrench-Argentiniancollaborativeprogram(PIC.G.).P.G.was supported by the Next Generation Unmanned Systems Science (NEXUSS), a National Environmental Research Council doctoral training programme, and the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology Scotland (MASTS). M.J. was supported by a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Career Integration Grant, by MASTS, and by a visiting Professor scholarship at Aarhus University. Open access funding provided by University of St Andrews.

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  • Female elephant seal
    Female elephant seal

    A female elephant seal with tags before leaving the beach.

    File size: 4.5 MB

    Attribution: Martín Ignacio Brogger

    Permission category: © - Only use with this story

    Last modified: 20 May 2020 8:09am

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  • A flashing squid being pursued by an elephant seal.

    This movie was filmed during a study by another group of scientists, where elephant seals were fitted with a camera to investigate diet. It is the only known example of this behaviour.

    File Size: 5.1 MB

    Attribution: Akinori Takahashi,The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, Japan. Reproduced with permission of The Company of Biologists.

    Permission Category: © - Only use with this story

    Last Modified: 20 May 2020 8:08am

    Note: High resolution video files are only available for download here by registered journalists who are logged in.

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