The relative influence of age and weight on the reproductive behaviour of male grey seals Halichoerus grypus


  • Janet Godsell

    1. Marine Fish Division, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada
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The breeding behaviour of male grey seals Halichoerus grypus of known age and weight was studied on Sable Island, Nova Scotia. Branded males ranged in age from 8 to 16 years and although there was a positive relationship between age and weight, there was a large overlap between age classes. In general, there was an increase in length of tenure and rates of copulation with increasing male age but this was less marked among males between the ages of 13 and 16 years. Compared to older ones, males of 8 and 12 years were observed at more sites, travelled more extensively around the breeding colony, were transient more frequently and were unable to lie as close to females. There was no correlation between male body weight and either length of tenure or rates of copulation when males of age 8 (the smallest males) were excluded from the analysis. Most agonistic behaviour was made by larger, older males towards smaller, younger ones and appeared to be responsible for the short length of tenure and low reproductive rates of young bulls.