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Southern elephant seal, Mirounga leonina: composition of milk during lactation

Abstract

An analysis of milk constituents during various stages of lactation in the southern elephant seal Mirounga leonina was carried out. Forty-six milk samples were taken from 30 females throughout lactation during 1985, 1987, 1990 and 1991 on Stranger Point, King George Island, South Shetland Islands. Total nitrogen (TN), non-protein nitrogen (NPN), sugar, fat, ash and water were measured, and from some of these data true protein and energy content were calculated. The results showed a high degree of variation in water and fat concentrations among samples at different stages of lactation. During the first 20 days the fat content of milk increased from about 12 to approximately 52%, while water content fell from 70 to 33%. The composition of milk changes rapidly during the first days post-partum. Protein, minerals and sugar appear to remain stable after the fourth day of lactation. Milk samples contain significant levels of sugars; thin layer chromatography indicates the presence of lactose and glucose together with other unidentified components. There is evidence of a striking change in composition of the milk in the later part of lactation; the progressive increase in the fat:water ratio is abruptly reversed just prior to weaning.

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Correspondence to A. R. Carlini.

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Carlini, A.R., Márquez, M.E.I., Soave, G. et al. Southern elephant seal, Mirounga leonina: composition of milk during lactation. Polar Biol 14, 37–42 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00240270

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Keywords

  • Glucose
  • Sugar
  • Total Nitrogen
  • Lactose
  • Thin Layer Chromatography