Growth rates of Antarctic fur seal Arctocephalus gazella pups at South Georgia



Large numbers of pups of the Antarctic fur seal were weighed at regular intervals through their rearing period in six seasons between 1972 and 1981 at South Georgia. Growth rates and birth and weaning weights were estimated from linear regressions of mean weight on mean age. Female pups had significantly lower growth rates and weaning weights than males, but higher variances for all growth parameters. This may reflect the importance to males of polygynous species of attaining high body weight. Except for an inverse relation between growth rate and birth weight there were no systematic relationships between growth parameters. Seasonal differences in growth rates were substantial and there was no indication that the continuing rapid population increase was affecting pup growth rates. The use of these data in detecting seasonal variations in local food availability is discussed. Preliminary estimates of the energy costs of pup rearing indicate that pup existence metabolism consumes c. 80% and mass gain to weaning only c. 15% of the energy provided by the female.