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Keywords:

  • aggregation behavior;
  • pups;
  • sexual differences;
  • association patterns;
  • otariids;
  • South American sea lion;
  • Otaria flavescens

Abstract

In the South American sea lion (Otaria flavescens), a polygynous species with a high degree of sexual dimorphism, pups form groups during maternal foraging trips. The aim of this study was to investigate the existence of sexual differences in aggregation behavior and association patterns in O. flavescens pups at Isla de Lobos, Uruguay, during the first 2 mo of life. Scan samplings of marked pups were conducted every hour from 0700 to 1800 to register behavior. Association patterns were analyzed in SOCPROG (using the Half-Weight Index of Association). We did not find significant sex differences in any variable (time spent in groups, average group size, time interacting with other pups, and time in groups at sea). Each pup showed preference for at least one partner. Associations between individuals of the same and different sex were not significantly different. As expected, during the first month, pups associated more strongly with pups born in the same zone than with those born in a different zone. This research provides new evidence on the development of social behavior in otariids and serves as a basis for future studies focusing on sexual differences in pup behavior and association patterns among individuals (e.g., related with kinship).