The analysis of pinniped scats has been used to quantify their diet, using prey remains to identify species and to estimate the numbers and sizes of prey consumed. There are, however, potential biases involved with scat analysis and, for this method to be used successfully, these biases need to be quantified. Thirty-six Antarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus gazella) were fed meals of exclusively either fish, squid, or krill and their scats were collected and analyzed. The major sources of error in the analysis of prey remains from scats were the differential erosion and passage rate of items in relation to their size. However, using simple correction functions, such as those which model otolith erosion, it is possible to reduce these errors. Using plastic beads as dietary markers showed recovery rates were negatively related to their size. Larger squid beaks had lower recovery rates than smaller beaks, but there was no size-related bias in the recovery rates of krill carapaces. Only 33% of the squid beaks and 27% of the otoliths originally fed were recovered from the scats. Recovery rates were greater for squid (77%) and fish (50%) eye lenses and these structures gave a better estimate of numbers eaten. Differences found between experimentally derived and published regression equations (used to calculate prey sizes eaten from prey remains) highlights the need for regression equations based on local prey characteristics, if these are to be used with any success to describe the prey eaten.
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