Pup growth in the fur seals Arctocephalus tropicalis and A. gazella on Marion Island


  • G. I. H. Kerley

    1. Mammal Research Institute, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0002, R.S.A.
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    • *Department of Zoology, University of Port Elizabeth, P.O. Box 1600, Port Elizabeth 6000, Republic of South Africa.


Subantarctic fur seal Arctocephalus tropicalis and Antarctic fur seal A. gazella pups at Marion Island were weighed frequently until weaning, which occurs earlier in A. gazella (112 days) than in A. tropicalis (± 300 days). The mean birth weight of both species was the same (4·2 kg) and males grew faster than females. Arctocephalus gazella growth was linear to weaning and faster than A. tropicalis growth, which was linear to 120 days of age, slowing until 203 days of age, and thereafter losing weight but recovering perceptibly prior to weaning. Tagging had no apparent effect on pup growth. Faster growth in males than in females is part of the differential growth patterns which lead to adult sexual dimorphism. Arctocephalus gazella pup growth at Marion Island is faster than at South Georgia, indicating that conditions at this, their most northerly breeding locality, are not limiting for pup growth. The decrease in A. tropicalis pup body weight in July/August may result from either a scarcity of food in winter or weaning having been initiated. The two groups (polar and non-polar) of fur seals exhibit two strategies, which include differences in pup growth and suckling period; the polar species have a short suckling period and rapid pup growth and are predominantly pelagic over winter, while the more temperate species have a longer suckling period and slower pup growth and are less pelagic over winter.