Satellite-linked dive recorders provide insights into the reproductive strategies of crabeater seals (Lobodon carcinophagus)

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Abstract

Insights into the reproductive strategies of crabeater seals Lobodon carcinophagus were obtained from satellite-linked dive recorders deployed during the breeding season. All of the three females and seven males on which instruments were deployed hauled out continuously for extended periods of up to 24 days. The duration of extended haulout is consistent with a lactation period of around 3 weeks. In two cases where dive recorders were deployed on a male and female in the same group, the two animals stayed together on the ice continuously and entered the water at exactly the same time when extended haulout ceased. In both cases the male and female became geographically separated within a short time after entering the water, indicating that the association did not last beyond the period on the ice. Some males had multiple periods of extended haulout, suggesting they may try to find more than one female with which to mate. An optimal reproductive strategy with regard to the time spent on the ice may balance the conflicting needs of a short time imposed by the availability of breeding habitat and a long time to increase the reproductive success of males and females by finding more, or choosing between, mates.

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