, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 31-41

Sexual dimorphism in sea lion pups: differential maternal investment, or sex-specific differences in energy allocation?

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Abstract

Proximal mechanisms underlying a faster growth rate in male compared to female California sea lion pups were investigated. Males are significantly larger at birth than females. Specifically, we asked if differential maternal investment contributed to enhanced male growth via: (1) larger mothers having disproportionately more male pups, (2) more time and energy put into foraging by mothers of male pups, and (3) greater milk production in mothers of male pups. We also considered four aspects of differential energy utilization and acquisition by male and female pups: (1) male pups attempting to save energy for growth by changes in behavior, (2) longer suckling bouts with mother and more sneak suckling of non-filial females by male pups, (3) lower maintenance costs in males via a lowered resting metabolic rate, and (4) increased assimilation efficiency in males. Our study showed that there are no differences in the size of females or length of foraging trips for mothers of male and female pups. Male pups received more milk from their mothers, but the difference was no longer significant when the larger body size of males was considered. There were no differences in either the activity budgets or suckling behavior of male and female pups. Male pups, however, did have lower resting metabolic rates than females. We conclude that enhanced male perinatal growth is a consequence of a larger size at birth, proportionally more milk from mothers to support the greater demands of larger body size, and lower maintenance costs due to a lower resting metabolic rate.

Received: 28 April 1995/Accepted after revision: 25 July 1995