Timing of births and juvenile mortality in the South American fur seal in Peru


  • Patricia Majluf

    1. Department of Zoology, Large Animal Research Group, 34A Storey's Way, Cambridge CB3 ODT, UK
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      Depto de Biologia, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Aptdo 5045, Lima 100, Peru


In most species, synchronous, seasonal reproduction is usually associated with higher offspring survival in animals giving birth around the peak, relative to those breeding at the extremes of the reproductive season. In contrast, in the South American fur seal (Arctocephalus australis) at Punta San Juan, Peru, females pupping around the peak of births had a greater probability of losing their pups and/or tended to lose them at an earlier age than females breeding early or late in the season. However, the timing of breeding in this population varies little between years and is consistently synchronous. Individual females maintained their relative breeding times in consecutive years, regardless of whether or not they lost their pup the previous year. Thus, pup mortality seems to have no effect on the timing of reproduction in this population.

High breeding densities and the consequent high pup mortality in the S. American fur seal in Peru may have resulted from intense poaching outside protected areas and are of recent origin. The reproductive synchrony in this population could have originally evolved as a response to seasonal variations in food availability and weather conditions, differences in female or pup body condition, predation pressure, sexual selection and/or harassment avoidance, but at the present high density levels has become maladaptive.