Physical growth of northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus): seasonal fluctuations and migratory influences



Growth curves are described for males, pregnant females, and non-pregnant females using morphometric measurements collected from over 18000 northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) shot at sea between California and the Bering Sea from 1958 to 1974. Seals of all ages experience seasonal increases and decreases in body mass and length. Seasonal fluctuations of body length may be an artefact of mass displacement caused by seasonal changes in mass. Rapid growth and gain in mass occur during a brief one to three month period as the population migrates northward through the coastal waters of northern British Columbia and Alaska on their way to the Pribilof Islands. Body mass of females and immature males is gradually lost while fasting on land and wintering along the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California. Pregnant females are both heavier and longer than non-pregnant females of the same age. Body mass in pregnant females levels off with age in contrast with the increasing mass of non-pregnant females. Growth of northern fur seals does not appear to stop at an upper asymptote, but continues throughout their life spans.