Grey seal, Halichoerus grypus, energetics: females invest more in male offspring

Authors

  • SHEILA S. ANDERSON,

    1. Natural Environment Research Council, Sea Mammal Research Unit, cjo British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 OET
    Search for more papers by this author
  • MICHAEL A. FEDAK

    1. Natural Environment Research Council, Sea Mammal Research Unit, cjo British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 OET
    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

Grey seal females transfer large amounts of energy to their pups during the brief lactation period. The costs of lactation have been measured using weight changes of mother and pup pairs. Large females come ashore to give birth earlier in the season and lose weight more rapidly than smaller females. The sex ratio of Grey seal pups born is skewed towards males in the early part of the breeding season. Male pups are larger at birth and gain weight more rapidly than female pups, and their mothers show a correspondingly faster rate of weight loss than mothers of female pups. The energy costs of gestation and lactation to a Grey seal mother are 31 GJ for male pups and2–8 GJ for female pups. Males are therefore 10% more costly in energy terms to raise to weaning. Because, on average, large females arrive at breeding sites before smaller animals, biased results on weight changes would be obtained from methods which do not use repeated weighings. We suggest that the high efficiencies of lactation estimated for Harp seals compared with other phocid seals could be accounted for by such a bias.

Ancillary