Marine scavengers

Using baited cameras to assess the abundances, and understand the roles, of scavenging animals in the sea.

Scavenging animals in the sea

ASLO "Water Rocks", Santa Fe, New Mexico, 4th - 9th February 2007.

Baited camera special session "SS09: Studying the Ecology, Biodiversity and Abundance of Aquatic Animals"

Proposal for a network of researchers

Figure 1

The importance of marine scavengers remains poorly understood despite extensive efforts. Particular difficulties exist in assessing how much carrion reaches marine systems, and in our understanding of scavenger behaviour.

Scavenging animals provide a useful mechanism for the study of marine environments, allowing relatively non-invasive measures of animal abundance through the analysis of baited camera footage. Baited camera techniques have particular promise in areas where the depth, topography, or biology make techniques such as trawling or photo-transects inappropriate.

Without improved understanding of scavenger behaviour our assessments are likely to be poor, and inconsistent between groups. Collaboration between benthic and pelagic ecologists, physiologists, ecological and hydrodynamic modellers is required to improve our basic knowledge and develop best practice guidelines for the use of baited camera systems.


"To share and develop techniques for scavenger assessment, with a view to establishing 'best practice' guidelines for the use of baited cameras."

Suggested ways forward:

  1. Set up an informal network of researchers to share information and collaborate on future research proposals and reviews.
  2. Marine Ecology Progress Themed Section.
  3. Informal meetings at major conferences (suggestions welcome). Currently there is a session running at ASLO, Santa Fe 2007.

Research questions

Abyssal Grenadiers

1) Carrion Supply

  1. How much is there, when does it arrive, what spatial and temporal trends exist, how long does it last?
  2. Need collaborations with fisheries scientists, marine mammal biologists, maybe using tags to show where and when large nekton falls out.

2) Food Location

  1. How do scavengers find their food – odour, sound/vibration, light?

3) Abundance Estimation

  1. How do arrival times/rates relate to the overall abundance of scavengers in the marine environment?
  2. How can we best use this relationship to assess scavenger abundance?
  3. What habitat, topographical and flow data do we need in order to use baited camera arrival rates for abundance estimates?

4) Outdoor Plume DynamicsOdour Plume

  1. How does different topography affect odour plume spreading, concentration and behaviour?
  2. How does benthic topography, and therefore odour plume turbulence, affect abundance estimation from baited lander studies?

5) Potential "best practice" guidelines, e.g.

  1. Timing of use (e.g. day/night, tides)
  2. Appropriate illumination techniques (i.e. frequencies/wavelength and intensity) under differing environmental conditions.
  3. Which film/video resolutions are required to ID animals to an acceptable level?
  4. Common calculation model for estimating abundances for generalised habitats and scavenger communities .

If you feel that there are further points that you would like to have specifically addressed on this website, or at the preliminary meeting, please bring these to the attention of David Bailey or Nikki King.