Neoglacial Sea Ice and Life History Flexibility in Ringed and Fur Seals

Susan J. Crockford and Gay S. Frederick

in Human Impacts on Seals, Sea Lions, and Sea Otters

Published by University of California Press

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780520267268
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520948976 | DOI:
Neoglacial Sea Ice and Life History Flexibility in Ringed and Fur Seals

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Ringed seals and fur seals inhabit the Bering Sea portion of the North Pacific Coast. This chapter provides evidence that Neoglacial sea ice expansion pushed Bering Sea populations of pack ice-breeding ringed and bearded seals south as far as the eastern Aleutians and kept them there until early summer, making these Arctic-adapted species easily accessible to ancient Aleut hunters. Extensive pack ice development would also have made the Pribilof Islands unsuitable as early summer pupping grounds for fur seals, forcing them to establish rookeries away from ice-covered waters and icy winds. These conclusions are based on a comprehensive analysis of skeletal remains recovered from an archaeological site off the Unalaska Island in the eastern Aleutians that was occupied at the height of the Neoglacial period, ca. 3500 to 2500 BP. Pack ice extent in the southern Bering Sea changed markedly during the Neoglacial, which sheds significant new light on the origins of Thule culture and on important aspects of ringed seal and fur seal life history.

Keywords: Neoglacial; sea ice; ringed seals; fur seals; Bering Sea; Pacific Coast; life history; Aleutians; Pribilof Islands; Thule culture

Chapter.  12668 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Zoology and Animal Sciences

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