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Maternal investment in Antarctic fur seals: evidence for equality in the sexes?

journal contribution
posted on 1997-06-01, 00:00 authored by N J Lunn, John ArnouldJohn Arnould
Studies of the otariids (fur seals and sea lions), a highly sexually dimorphic group, have provided conflicting evidence of differential maternal expenditure in male and female offspring and, thus, suggestions that they conform to predictions of investment theory are equivocal. Since the mid-1970s, a diversity of research on Antarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus gazella) including studies of their reproductive ecology, lactation energetics, and foraging behaviour have been conducted at Bird Island, South Georgia that have resulted in one of the more complete and diverse data sets for any species of otariid. These long-term data were reviewed to determine whether there was any evidence to support that differential maternal expenditure occurred in Antarctic fur seals. Most of the data examined were collected during live consecutive austral summers from 1988 through 1992 and included years in which local food resources were abundant and scarce. We were unable to detect differences in the sex ratios of pups at birth or sex-biased differences in growth rates estimated from serial data, the number of foraging trips made, the duration of attendance ashore, diving behaviour, suckling behaviour, or milk consumption in any year and in the duration of foraging trips or age at weaning in 2 of 3 years. In addition, we found no evidence of greater reproductive costs between mothers with sons or daughters relative to their reproductive performance the following year. In contrast, sex-biased differences were only found in the duration of foraging trips in 1990, the age at weaning in 1988, and consistently in growth rates estimated from cross-sectional data. We suggest that differential maternal expenditure does not occur in Antarctic fur seals because male pups probably do not gain greater benefit from additional maternal expenditure than female pups. After weaning, males experience a period of rapid juvenile growth over 3 4 years during which time body mass nearly trebles. This growth will almost certainly be dependent upon available food resources then rather than on any maternal expenditure received over the first 4 months of life and, thus, the assumptions of the Trivers and Willard hypothesis are probably invalid for Antarctic fur seals.



Behavioral ecology and sociobiology






351 - 362


Springer Verlag


Berlin, Germany





Publication classification

C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

1997, Springer-Verlag