DO PHOTOPERIOD AND TEMPERATURE INFLUENCE THE MOLT CYCLE OF PHOCA VITULINA IN CAPTIVITY?

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Abstract

Photoperiod variations are the principal environmental signals entraining circannual activity in mammals, which is also believed to be influenced by changes in temperature and nutrition. Control of the molt in phocids has not been extensively studied with experimental manipulations of environmental factors, but substantial work indicates that photoperiod has a primary influence on mammalian breeding and furring mechanisms. Studies were under taken to reestablish the molt cycle in five harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) previously kept in an enclosed facility with a limited air/water temperature gradient and artificial photoperiod. The seals were exposed to an extended temperature gradient during the first period of study, and no molting was observed. The second period of study was characterized by a natural occurring photoperiod of 8 h 53 min light (L)/15 h 07 min dark (D) and a maximal 15 h 31 min L/8h 29 min D duration, and molting occurred in all individuals. These results suggest a prevalent influence of photoperiod variation on the harbor seal molt.

Ancillary