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Strong winds send migrating seal pups on lengthier trips

The animals may suffer higher rates of mortality in breezy years as a result

By
4:32pm, February 15, 2018
seal pup

BLOWN AROUND  Prevailing winds can displace migrating northern fur seal pups, who begin their epic journeys at just 4 months old, by hundreds of kilometers.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Native American fishermen in Alaska have long said that seal pups go with the wind rather than struggle against it. Now, a new study confirms that wisdom. Migrating northern fur seal pups travel hundreds of kilometers farther in blustery years than in milder years, researchers reported February 14 at the American Geophysical Union’s Ocean Sciences meeting. Those epic journeys may be linked to pup deaths.

At 4 months old, the pups are weaned and begin a voyage from the Pribilof Islands of Alaska through the Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean that can last for 20 months before they return to the islands. Physical oceanographer Noel Pelland and colleagues compared the migrations of 168 seal pups tagged in five different years from 1996 to 2015 with winds matching the pups’ first migration years. Winds were simulated using data from the U.S. National

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