Verbal. Mentioned at the Session of Saturday Evening by Mr. Komarow.
new data on the life and hunting of fur seals, 1902—food of the seals.
[Pages 7–9 of the Russian edition.]
The seals of the Commander Islands differ noticeably in their habits and the condition of their food from those of the Pribilof Islands (because of the difference in the waters surrounding the islands).
The seals of the Commander herds need not, and do not, go any comparatively great distance from the coast in search of food, as do the seals of the Pribilof herds. This observation, formerly made by Mr. Grebnitsky, has been fully confirmed by later researches, and finally by the recent investigations of American and English scientists, who have also certified to the fact that seals can not feed except in great depths.
One of the principal points attested to on the basis of investigated facts is that the seal not only seeks its food in the very profound depths, but it feeds upon cephalopodes and swimming fish near the surface of the water. In Bering Sea their principal food in the months of August and September consists of the “gadus chalcogrammus” (Teregra), then the “gonatus amœnus” of the cephalopode class, salmon, and some sorts of little fish. Outside the Bering Sea the food is different; the gadus chaleogrammus does not go far to the south (on the American coast), but salmonides, herrings, chiridse are to be found instead. On the Pribilof Islands one sees but little excrement, quite the contrary from what one sees on the seal dwelling places on Commander Islands, according to the very just statement of the American naturalist, Mr. Frederick A. Lucas (curator of the department of comparative anatomy of the United States National Museum).
The recent researches are by Fred. Lucas; Robert Snodgras; Pierre A. Fisch, of New York; Ch. Wardell Stiles; C. H. Townsend; W. Hour Wilson Thoburn, professor of the Stanford University, and member of the Biological Society of Washington; Chart Merria; Clark; A. B. Alexander; Dr. J. A. Allen.
Everybody remembers also David Star Jordan, Barret-Hamilton, Dr. Arcy Thompson Elliot, Charles Henry Gilbert Steineger. It depends directly on this fact that the feeding grounds of the seals of the Commander Islands are near the islands, and the seals return to the coast before the food taken has time to pass through the intestines and be evacuated. Young seals are nourished exclusively by their mother’s milk until their departure from the islands at the close of November.
The investigations concerning the sort of food eaten by seals show that they are choice enough in their food; and that, for instance, they do not eat codfish (gadus morrhua), which is found in great abundance and very near the coast; that the seal takes a great deal of food at one time, is really voracious, which explains the necessity of the excursions in search of food.
The observations demonstrate that female seals eat more and need food oftener than the males. Under these circumstances the depths of 200 meters (100 Russian sagenes) are of great importance to seals, because in these depths and near them, the greater part of the seal’s food is found—the cephalopodes gonatus and a quantity of fish of medium level.
Most of the pelagic sealing is done just near these limits, and the farther away these depths are from the dwelling places of the seals, during the period of propagation and nursing, so much farther must the animals go out to sea to seek their food.
For the Pribilof Islands that limit is at a distance of 75 to 150 miles; for the Commander, where the depths are quite near the coast, the seals have not far to go for their food (p. 16). As tor the food of seals at the time of migration along the coast, we have at present but little definite data.