The timing of pupping by pack-ice seals in East Antarctica
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- Southwell, C., Kerry, K., Ensor, P. et al. Polar Biol (2003) 26: 648. doi:10.1007/s00300-003-0534-8
Data on the timing of pupping by the three species of phocid that breed on the Antarctic pack-ice (crabeater, Ross and leopard seals) are limited. Better information would improve our understanding of these species' population and reproductive ecologies, and could facilitate planning and design of population surveys. Observations of the presence or absence of pups with adults during numerous voyages of the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions to East Antarctica during spring and early summer months are analysed and presented. The earliest sighting in any year of a crabeater pup accompanied by an adult was on 2 October and the latest sighting on 15 December. The ratio of crabeater pups to adults increased rapidly during the 10-day period 16–25 October, implying a pulse of births over this time. Ross seal pups with an accompanying adult were sighted between 24 October and 22 November, with a peak in the pup-adult ratio occurring in the period 6–15 November. Leopard seal pups were sighted between 8 November and 25 December, with the pup-adult ratio relatively constant during this period. The data provide circumstantial evidence that the maximum durations of lactation reported in the literature for the three species may be over-estimates. If lactation is shorter than reported, asynchrony in the timing of pupping, either among or within years, is implied.