Milk consumption, body composition and pre-weaning growth rates of Australian fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus) pups

Authors

  • John P. Y. Arnould,

    Corresponding author
    1. Marine Mammal Research Group, Graduate School of the Environment, Macquarie University, Sydney 2109, New South Wales, Australia
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  • Mark A. Hindell

    1. Antarctic Wildlife Research Unit, School of Zoology, University of Tasmania, P.O. Box 252-05, Hobart 7001, Tasmania, Australia
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*All correspondence to: J. P. Y. Arnould. E-mail: jarnould@gse.mq.edu.au

Abstract

Pre-weaning growth rates, body composition, milk consumption and mass gain efficiency were measured in Australian fur seal Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus pups born in two consecutive breeding periods. Australian fur seals have the highest birth mass of any fur seal species (male 8.3 kg; female 7.2 kg). While their absolute pre-weaning growth rate (male 62 g·day−1; female 53 g·day−1) is similar to that of other temperate latitude fur seals, they have the longest birth-mass doubling time of any otariid species (134–136 days). Daily milk consumption increased from 400 g·day−1 (5 MJ·day−1) after birth to 675 g·day−1 (13.7 MJ·day−1) at age 210 day. However, mean mass-specific milk consumption (41 g·kg−1) is substantially lower than in other otariid species (58–70 g·kg−1) and, combined with a low mass gain efficiency (0.12 g·g−1), contributes to the low mass-specific growth rates observed. There were no significant differences in either absolute or mass-specific milk consumption between the sexes. Significant differences, however, were found between the sexes in the body composition of pups with females generally having larger body lipid stores than males for any given mass. Peak milk yield by Australian fur seal females is estimated at 0.60 MJkg−0.75, substantially less than in Antarctic fur seals. The low level of maternal energy transfer in Australian fur seals may reflect the relatively low marine productivity of their foraging areas.

Ancillary