Polar Biology

, Volume 34, Issue 7, pp 1097–1103 | Cite as

Ontogeny of aquatic behaviours in Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella) pups in relation to growth performances at Kerguelen Islands

Short Note


In diving marine predators, such as pinnipeds, the development of diving and foraging skills prior to weaning might be critical to post-weaning survival. Here, we examined the effect of pup mass growth on the amount of time devoted to aquatic activities and the dive performance of Antarctic fur seal, Arctocephalus gazella, pups on Kerguelen Island. Maternal attendance and mass-specific growth rate were assessed for 85 pups. Two types of monitoring were applied: visual observations of behaviours for 60 pups and the deployment of time-depth recorders (TDRs) on 19 female pups. At approximately 2 months of age, pups demonstrated minimal diving behaviour, but displayed considerable aquatic activity. While mothers were foraging at sea, pups fasted on land (6.0 ± 1.3 d). As the mass-specific growth rate was different between sexes, only data on female pups were analysed (n = 31). Mass-specific growth rate was related to maternal attendance patterns and impacted the amount of time allocated by pups to aquatic activities. The time spent in the water by pups was quadratically related to fasting progress. This study shows the importance of growth and fasting progress on the quantity of time pups devoted to aquatic activities. Our results suggest that greater post-weaning survival of heavier pups may be due not only to their greater body reserves, as reported in several studies, but also possibly to from their greater aquatic skills and physiological adaptations developed during the suckling period.


Fur seal Pups Aquatic activity Growth rate Fasting Kerguelen 


  1. Arnould JPY, Green JA, Rawlins DR (2001) Fasting metabolism in Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella) pups. Comp Biochem Phys A 129:829–841CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arnould JPY, Luque SP, Guinet C, Costa DP, Kingston J, Shaffer SA (2003) The comparative energetics and growth strategies of sympatric Antarctic and subantarctic fur seal pups at Îles Crozet. J Exp Biol 206:4497–4506PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baker JD, Donohue MJ (2000) Ontogeny of swimming and diving in northern fur seal (Callorhinus ursinus) pups. Can J Zool 78:100–109Google Scholar
  4. Baker JD, Fowler CW (1992) Pup weight and survival of Northern fur seals Callorhinus-ursinus. J Zool 227:231–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baylis AMM, Page B, Peters K, McIntosh R, Mckenzie J, Goldsworthy S (2005) The ontogeny of diving behaviour in New Zealand fur seal pups (Arctocephalus forsteri). Can J Zool 83:1149–1161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beauplet G, Guinet C, Arnould JPY (2003) Body composition changes, metabolic fuel use, and energy expenditure during extended fasting in subantarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus tropicalis) pups at Amsterdam Island. Physiol Biochem Zool 76:262–270PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Beauplet G, Barbraud C, Chambellant M, Guinet C (2005) Interannual variation in the post-weaning and juvenile survival of subantarctic fur seals: influence of pup sex, growth rate and oceanographic conditions. J Anim Ecol 74:1160–1172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bester MN, Bartlett PA (1990) Attendance behaviour of Antarctic and subantarctic fur seal females at Marion Island. Antarc Sci 2:309–312Google Scholar
  9. Birgersson B, Ekvall K (1997) Early growth in male and female fallow deer fawns. Behav Ecol 8:493–499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cappozzo HL (2001) New perspectives on the behavioural ecology of pinnipeds. In: Evans PGH, Raga JA (eds) Marine mammals: biology and conservation. Broché, New York, pp 243–263Google Scholar
  11. Chambellant M, Beauplet G, Guinet C, Georges J-Y (2003) Long-term evaluation of pup growth and preweaning survival rates in subantarctic fur seals, Arctocephalus tropicalis, on Amsterdam Island. Can J Zool 81:1222–1232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Goldsworthy S, Lea M-A, Guinet C (2004) Comparison of mass-transfer and isotopic dilution methods for estimating milk intake in Antarctic fur seal pups. Polar Biol 27:801–809CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Guinet C, Goldsworthy SD, Robinson S (1999) Sex differences in mass loss rate and growth efficiency in Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella) pups at Macquarie Island. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 46:157–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Guinet C, Lea M-A, Goldsworthy SD (2000) Mass change in Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella) pups in relation to maternal characteristics at the Kerguèlen Islands. Can J Zool 78:484–494Google Scholar
  15. Guinet C, Servera N, Deville T, Beauplet G (2005) Changes in subantarctic fur seal pups’ activity budget and diving behaviours throughout the rearing period. Can J Zool 83:962–970CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hazekamp AAH, Mayer R, Osinga N (2010) Flow simulation along a seal: the impact of an external device. Eur J Wildlife Res 56:131–140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hindell MA, McConnell BJ, Fedak MA, Slip DJ, Burton HR, Reijnders PJH, McMahon CR (1999) Environmental and physiological determinants of successful foraging by naive southern elephant seal pups during their first trip to sea. Can J Zool 77:1807–1821CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lea M-A, Christophe G, Yves C, Guy D, Laurent D, Patrice P, Mark H (2006) Impacts of climatic anomalies on provisioning strategies of a Southern Ocean predator. Mar Ecol-Prog Ser 310:77–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lunn NJ, Boyd IL, Barton T, Croxall JP (1993) Factors affecting the growth rate and weaning mass of Antarctic fur seal pups at Bird Island, South Georgia. J Mammal 74:908–919CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. McCafferty DJ, Boyd IL, Taylor RI (1998a) Diving behaviour of Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella) pups. Can J Zool 76:513–520Google Scholar
  21. McCafferty DJ, Boyd IL, Walker TR, Taylor RI (1998b) Foraging responses of Antarctic fur seals to changes in the marine environment. Mar Ecol-Prog Ser 166:285–299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. McMahon CR, Burton HR, Bester MN (2000) Weaning mass and the future survival of juvenile southern elephant seals, Mirounga leonina, at Macquarie Island. Antarc Sci 12:149–153Google Scholar
  23. Stirling I (1983) The evolution of mating systems in pinnipeds. In: Eisenberg JF, Kleiman DG (eds) Advances in the study of mammalian behavior. American Society of Mammalogists, pp 489–527Google Scholar
  24. The R Foundation for Statistical Computing (2009) R: a language and environment for statistical computing and graphicsGoogle Scholar
  25. Vargas R, Osman LP, Torres D (2009) Inter-sexual differences in Antarctic fur seal pup growth rates: evidence of environmental regulation? Polar Biol 32:1177–1186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Verrier D, Guinet C, Authier M, Tremblay Y, Schaffer S, Costa DP, Groscolas R, Arnould JPY (in revision) The Ontogeny of diving abilities in subantarctic fur seal (Arctocephallus tropicalis) pups: developmental trade-off in response to extreme fasting. J Exp BiolGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre d’Études Biologiques de ChizéCentre National de la Recherche ScientifiqueVilliers en BoisFrance

Personalised recommendations