The annual cycle of adult female southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) can be divided into 2 pelagic phases, separated by relatively short terrestrial phases: breeding and molting. We used resighting data collected from tagged female southern elephant seals at Marion Island during 1986–1999 to investigate seasonal survival during the 2 pelagic phases in relation to reproductive experience. Mean postbreeding (pelagic phase between breeding and molting, about 62 days) survival of primiparous females was 0.830 compared to 0.912 for more-experienced females. Postmolting (pelagic phase between molting and breeding, about 255 days) survival was 0.847 (0.960 when rescaled to 62 days for comparative purposes) and was not dependent on reproductive experience. Postbreeding survival of experienced females was higher than postmolting survival, but per unit time the opposite applied. A 2-stage survival model, in which survival was constrained to be constant before 1994 (when the population was declining) and from 1994 onward (during the stable phase), had overwhelming support from the data. Postbreeding survival of primiparous females increased from 0.799 before 1994 to 0.880 from 1994 onward. Postmolting survival of all females also increased from 0.817 to 0.872 over the same period. Postbreeding and postmolting mortality risk varied independently over time, demonstrating the importance of an intra-annual approach in population studies of southern elephant seals.
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