, Volume 67, Issue 6, pp 1001-1011

Site fidelity of male Galápagos sea lions: a lifetime perspective

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Abstract

Knowledge about the distribution of resources can lead to the development of spatial preferences and long-term site fidelity. Individuals are expected to choose sites that best suit their needs. However, dominant individuals restrict movements of less competitive ones. Accordingly, one may expect spatial preferences to differ with regard to individual characteristics and to change over time. We investigated lifetime changes of site fidelity patterns with regard to reproductive success in male Galápagos sea lions (Zalophus wollebaeki). Showing a high degree of natal philopatry in the first 2 years of life, non-territorial males pass through a stage of fidelity to their natal colony where they develop preferences for areas outside prime breeding areas. Variation in the degree of spatial preferences was not associated with age or size, characteristics linked to an individual’s dominance status. For non-territorial males, roaming proved to be an adequate strategy to gain reproductive success. Only the most competitive males established territories in areas preferentially visited by females. They had a high probability to return to breeding areas where they successfully reproduced in previous seasons. Overall, the results reveal lifetime changes in site fidelity with regard to male status. The degree of site fidelity observed within the colony suggests familiarity and thus a high degree of tolerance among individuals using the same areas. This seems to facilitate attendance in the colony and thus the possibility to prospect for oestrus females.

Communicated by V. M. Janik