Polar Biology

, Volume 32, Issue 8, pp 1177–1186

Inter-sexual differences in Antarctic fur seal pup growth rates: evidence of environmental regulation?

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00300-009-0615-4

Cite this article as:
Vargas, R., Osman, L.P. & Torres, D. Polar Biol (2009) 32: 1177. doi:10.1007/s00300-009-0615-4


We investigated the variation of Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella) pup growth rates in response to sex, breeding season and duration of both maternal foraging trip and attendance bouts. Data were collected during five consecutive rearing seasons at Cape Shirreff, the most important breeding colony in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica. Our results showed significant interannual and sexual variations in pup growth rates. Male pups grew significantly faster than female pups during 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2004 seasons, whilst during 2003 no difference was found. The interannual variation in pup growth rates was correlated with the interannual fluctuation in maternal foraging trip and attendance bouts. There was a significant effect of pup sex and maternal foraging trip duration on pup growth rates, which varied between years having foraging trip duration a major effect during 2003, when females spent more time at sea and interestingly on that year there were no sexual differences in pup growth rates. The effect of attendance bout on pup growth rates was not significant. Diet analysis showed that Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) was the most frequent prey item during the study period. Analysis of krill size distribution showed a significant difference in krill length, during 2003, when A. gazella preyed upon the smallest sizes of krill. In this study, sex was the most important factor on pup growth rates, but when prey availability seemed more limited, there are longer foraging trips and shorter attendance bouts the sex factor became less significant.


Arctocephalus gazella Sexual dimorphism Pup growth rates Maternal foraging–attendance cycles Environmental regulation 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Facultad de Ciencias del marUniversidad de ValparaísoViña del MarChile
  2. 2.Centro Ballena Azul c/o Instituto de Ecología y EvoluciónUniversidad Austral de ChileValdiviaChile
  3. 3.Instituto de Ecología y EvoluciónUniversidad Austral de ChileValdiviaChile
  4. 4.Departamento CientíficoInstituto Antártico ChilenoPunta ArenasChile

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