Marine Biology

, Volume 159, Issue 12, pp 2687–2696 | Cite as

Head start: Australian sea lion pups gain experience of adult foraging grounds before weaning

  • A. D. Lowther
  • S. D. Goldsworthy
Original Paper


The extended lactation period of the Australian sea lion Neophoca cinerea is suggested to provide additional time for offspring to achieve nutritional independence. We examine the dive and movement development of pups at two age classes (6–10 months) from two colonies (Lilliput and Olive Islands) in South Australia using archival GPS and time-depth recorders to investigate the degree of overlap with maternal home range. Older pups from Lilliput travelled significantly further and spent more time at sea than younger pups. At Olive Island, there was a similar increase in distance travelled and time spent at sea with age. Pups at both colonies started occupying adult female home range at 6 months. Australian sea lion pups can explore adult foraging habitat at least 8 months prior to weaning, allowing them to learn the location of suitable habitat and the skills required to hunt successfully.


Home Range Dive Duration Nutritional Independence Houtman Abrolhos Island Otariid Seal 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Research was funded through the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts’ Australian Marine Mammal Centre, Australian Antarctic Division and the Commonwealth Environment Research Facilities (CERF) programme, Sea World Research and Rescue Foundation Inc. and the Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment. We thank the two anonymous reviewers whose comments improved the manuscript and acknowledge the logistical assistance of the South Australian Department of Environment and Natural Resources rangers and the South Australian State Emergency Services.

Supplementary material

227_2012_2026_MOESM1_ESM.docx (15 kb)
Supplemental Table I. Morphometrics and age estimation at capture and at instrumentation for pups tracked at Lilliput Is. (n = 6) and Olive Is. (n = 6) between June 2008 and October 2009. Pups were individually marked shortly after birth as part of a prior study. Age-at-first-capture was estimated using pup growth rates from Lowther and Goldsworthy (2011) and used to calculate age-at-instrumentation. # denotes pups instrumented for a four-month period covering both six- and 10-month age classes. (DOCX 15 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of AdelaideNorth Terrace, AdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.Aquatic SciencesSouth Australian Research and Development InstituteWest BeachAustralia

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