TitleA preliminary assessment of the impact of disturbance and handling on Weddell seals of McMurdo Sound, Antarctica
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsMellish, J-AE, Hindle, AJ, Horning, M
JournalAntarctic Science
Date Published2/2010
KeywordsWeddell seal

There has been growing concern over the impact of increased human disturbance and research effects on Antarctic species. The Weddell seal of McMurdo Sound in particular has been used as a model species for over four decades of research, with some individuals handled multiple times over a single season. Using opportunistic data, we performed an assessment of blood indicators in adult males (n = 26) and adult females (n = 24) based on high versus low disturbance areas, with results showing no variation in overall seal health. In addition, we performed a preliminary analysis of blood and faecal indicators of inflammation and stress collected from adult, non-lactating females (n = 13) handled twice in less than two weeks for research purposes. There was no indication of a change in white blood cells, platelets, globulins or haptoglobins, or faecal corticosteroids (all P > 0.05). While based on a small, opportunistic sample size with limited power in some cases, preliminary results indicate there is no acute impact of repeated handling or difference in overall traffic level on adult Weddell seals.