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Stomach temperature records reveal nursing behaviour and transition to solid food consumption in an unweaned mammal, the harbour seal pup (Phoca vitulina)

Sauve, Caroline C., Van de Walle, Joanie, Hammill, Mike O., Arnould, John P.Y. and Beauplet, Gwenael 2014, Stomach temperature records reveal nursing behaviour and transition to solid food consumption in an unweaned mammal, the harbour seal pup (Phoca vitulina), PLoS one, vol. 9, no. 2, Article number e90329, pp. 1-13.

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Title Stomach temperature records reveal nursing behaviour and transition to solid food consumption in an unweaned mammal, the harbour seal pup (Phoca vitulina)
Author(s) Sauve, Caroline C.
Van de Walle, Joanie
Hammill, Mike O.
Arnould, John P.Y.
Beauplet, Gwenael
Journal name PLoS one
Volume number 9
Issue number 2
Season Article number e90329
Start page 1
End page 13
Total pages 13
Publisher Public Library of Science
Place of publication San Francisco, California
Publication date 2014-02-26
ISSN 1932-6203
Keyword(s) stomach temperature
nursing behaviour
transition to solid food consumption
unweaned mammal
harbour seal pup (Phoca vitulina)
Summary Knowledge of milk transfer from mother to offspring and early solid food ingestions in mammals allows for a greater understanding of the factors affecting transition to nutritional independence and pre-weaning growth and survival. Yet studies monitoring suckling behaviour have often relied on visual observations, which might not accurately represent milk intake. We assessed the use of stomach temperature telemetry to monitor suckling and foraging behaviour in free-ranging harbour seal (Phoca vitulina) pups during lactation. Stomach temperature declines were analysed using principal component and cluster analyses, as well as trials using simulated stomachs resulting in a precise classification of stomach temperature drops into milk, seawater and solid food ingestions. Seawater and solid food ingestions represented on average 15.361.6% [0-40.0%] and 0.760.2% [0-13.0%], respectively, of individual ingestions. Overall, 63.7% of milk ingestions occurred while the pups were in the water, of which 13.9% were preceded by seawater ingestion. The average time between subsequent ingestions was significantly less for seawater than for milk ingestions. These results suggest that seawater ingestion might represent collateral ingestion during aquatic suckling attempts. Alternatively, as solid food ingestions (n = 19) were observed among 7 pups, seawater ingestion could result from missed prey capture attempts. This study shows that some harbour seals start ingesting prey while still being nursed, indicating that weaning occurs more gradually than previously thought in this species. Stomach temperature telemetry represents a promising method to study suckling behaviour in wild mammals and transition to nutritional independence in various endotherm species.
Language eng
Field of Research 060201 Behavioural Ecology
060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology)
060809 Vertebrate Biology
Socio Economic Objective 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
Copyright notice ©2014, Public Library of Science
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30062676

Document type: Journal Article
Collections: School of Life and Environmental Sciences
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Every reasonable effort has been made to ensure that permission has been obtained for items included in DRO. If you believe that your rights have been infringed by this repository, please contact drosupport@deakin.edu.au.