University of St Andrews
Sea Mammal Research Unit
SMRU > Research > Habitat Preference

Habitat Preference

Marine mammals’ physiology and life history both enable and limit access to the resources of the world’s oceans.  Yet, the closer we look, the more we see that marine mammals often have specific preferences, both at the species and the individual level., within the space that is accessible  These preferences may relate to their abiotic environment, the availability of prey, or the presence of conspecifics.

Quantifying habitat preference is useful since it can aid us in predicting distribution under changing conditions


Boat or aircraft-based sightings surveys tell us where animals are. Telemetry data tell us how specific tagged animals move through time. But to quantify their preference for certain environments we need to know where the animals could have gone but chose not to.  In other words, we need to know what habitats are available to them. 


Jason Mathiopoulos and others have developed analyses to model preference using telemetry track data

Grey seal fitted with a satellite relay data logger



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