Researchers are using the whiskers of Antarctic fur seals to map food webs in a first for the Southern Ocean.
The research is the result of a multidisciplinary effort across international organisations including the University of Tasmania's institute for Marine and Antarctic studies.
IMAS Associate Professor Mary-Anne Lea said seals store information about what they eat in their bodies.
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She said by studying the chemical make up of a seal's whiskers researchers could tell what sort of food they are eating.
"We've been able to link the movements of the seals, using miniaturised tags, and the isotopic signatures which are stored in their whiskers," Professor Lea said.
"[Whisker are] what we call an archival animal tissue, so it means as the animal moves around the ocean eating various prey it integrates that prey into the body and it grows whiskers."
Professor Lea this method was a non invasive way for researchers to examine the make up of the Southern Ocean.
"The seals [are] being slueths in the Southern Ocean for us really," she said.
"They are transmitting information back about the ocean from their travels.
"The reason this is important is because we have enormous data gaps both in terms the areas of the Southern Ocean and also [through the Winter period]."
The study, published in Ecological Indicators, is the first of it's kind to be completed in the Southern Ocean.
The paper collates about 12 years of data to help provide an insight into the feeding habits of fur seals while migrating.
Lead author of the study IMAS's Dr Andrea Walters said knowing who eats who, where and when was important to understanding the structure of Southern Ocean food webs.
She said the research will help inform conservation strategies and ecosystem management plans.
"This information will build a better picture of the food web that links predator to prey," Dr Walters said.
The international collaboration included researchers from Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and South Africa.
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