Polar Biology

, 29:796 | Cite as

The dynamics of male harem dominance in southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) at the South Shetland Islands

  • Alejandro R. Carlini
  • Sebastián Poljak
  • Gustavo A. Daneri
  • María E. I. Márquez
  • Javier Negrete
Original Paper


Breeding chronology, harem structure and changes in male harem dominance were studied at Stranger Point, Isla 25 de Mayo/King George Island, principally by extensive field census work during the 2003 breeding season. Males were individually identified and their size estimated by using a photogrammetric method. Peak female haul out for the population occurred on 31 October, when a total of 276 females were observed along 7 km of coastline, distributed in ten harems with a median size of 16 females. Overall sex ratio and harem sex ratio for the breeding population were 1:6.7 and 1:10.6, respectively. A total of 33 males were identified associated with harems. Male size conferred an advantage in terms of dominance hierarchy, since dominant males (4.91±0.15 m) were significantly longer than subordinate males (4.63±0.19 m). Harems were dominated by an average of 4.5 (range 2–7) different males during the breeding season. Elephant seals at Stranger Point breed in very low density aggregations. The main breeding events in this population occurred later than at other breeding sites, which agrees with previous observations in the area. Male movement among harems suggests that differences in mating success among males could be achieved through their different behaviours.


Mirounga leonina Southern elephant seals Breeding chronology Breeding biology 



We want to thank Lic. Esteban Soibelzon, Prof. Miguel Gasco and Leandro Balboni for field assistance. Our procedures conform to the Code of Ethics of Animal Experimentation in Antarctica. We also thank N. de Bruyn an one anonymous reviewer for helpful comments to improve the manuscript. The permit for this work was granted by the Dirección Nacional del Antártico (Environmental Office), Argentina. This work was funded by the Dirección Nacional del Antártico and the Secretaría de Ciencia y Técnica (Picto:11559).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alejandro R. Carlini
    • 1
  • Sebastián Poljak
    • 2
  • Gustavo A. Daneri
    • 3
  • María E. I. Márquez
    • 1
  • Javier Negrete
    • 4
  1. 1.Departamento de Cs. BiológicasInstituto Antártico Argentino Buenos AiresArgentina
  2. 2.Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y MuseoCátedra de Anatomía ComparadaBuenos AiresArgentina
  3. 3.División MastozoologíaMuseo Argentino de Cs. Naturales “B. Rivadavia”Buenos AiresArgentina
  4. 4.Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y MuseoCátedra de Vertebrados Buenos AiresArgentina

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