Long-term evaluation of body mass at weaning and postweaning survival rates of Weddell seals in Erebus Bay, Antarctica



Variability in juvenile survival rate is expected to be an important component of the dynamics of long-lived animal populations. Across a range of species, individual variation in juvenile body mass has been shown to be an important cause of variation in fates of juveniles. Our goal in this paper was to estimate age-specific apparent survival rates for Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) in Erebus Bay, Antarctica, and to investigate hypotheses about relationships between body mass at weaning and apparent survival rate for juveniles. Mark–resighting models found average apparent juvenile survival rate (survival from weaning to age 3) was similar between males and females, and revealed positive relationships between body mass at weaning and apparent juvenile survival rate. The effects of body mass on juvenile survival rate differed between the sexes and the relationship between body mass and survival rate was stronger in males. These results indicate that the magnitude of energy transferred from mother to pup during lactation likely has important consequences on offspring survival rate and maternal fitness.