THE INFLUENCE OF CLIMATIC SEASONALITY ON THE LIFE CYCLE OF THE PRIBILOF NORTHERN FUR SEAL

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Abstract

Weather conditions recorded from 1956 to 1986 on St. Paul Island, Alaska, were probed to establish their influence upon the northern fur seal's life cycle (Callorhinus ursinus). Air temperatures, wind speeds, and relative humidity levels were seasonally decomposed and compared with the timing of pupping and migration. Most pups are born in early July when air temperatures and relative humidity approach their highest annual levels and wind speeds are at their lowest. Weather conditions favor growth and survival of pups from July to September but are unfavorable in June. A rapid deterioration in weather through October and November corresponds with the fall migration of pups and lactating females. The data suggest the pivotal event in the fur seal's life cycle is the timing of birth and survival of nursing pups. As such, the ultimate determinant of the precisely timed fur seal life cycle appears to be climatic seasonality during the breeding season.

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