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Mammalian Biology

, Volume 75, Issue 6, pp 555–560 | Cite as

Prevalence of allosuckling behaviour in Subantarctic fur seal pups

  • P. J. Nico de BruynEmail author
  • Elissa Z. Cameron
  • Cheryl A. Tosh
  • W. Chris Oosthuizen
  • Ryan R. Reisinger
  • N. Thomas Mufanadzo
  • Mashudu V. Phalanndwa
  • Martin Postma
  • Mia Wege
  • Derek S. van der Merwe
  • Marthán N. Bester
Original Investigation

Abstract

Non-offspring maternal care should be rare due to the high costs of raising offspring, particularly lactation, but nonetheless occurs in a variety of taxa. Misguided parental care, associated with recognition errors and/or inattentiveness by lactating females, has been hypothesized as an explanation for allolactation in mammals. In an extension of this hypothesis, we suggest that milk-stealing is parasitism instigated by non-filial offspring, and that maternal behaviour is of secondary interest in an evolutionary context if she is unaware of the interaction. We provide evidence for frequent milk-stealing attempts by Subantarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus tropicalis) pups, including an example of sustained non-maternal care (> three months) for one pup during the confirmed absence of his mother, leading to a weaning mass equal to the population mean. We also present only the second account of fostering/twins in the species at this locality. We suggest that rather than the hitherto suggested rare and anomalous behaviour, milk-stealing behaviour (while not always successful) is common.

Keywords

Arctocephalus tropicalis Milk-theft Parasitism Marion Island Maternal investment 

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Copyright information

© Deutsche Gesellschaft für Säugetierkunde 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. J. Nico de Bruyn
    • 1
    Email author
  • Elissa Z. Cameron
    • 1
  • Cheryl A. Tosh
    • 1
  • W. Chris Oosthuizen
    • 1
  • Ryan R. Reisinger
    • 1
  • N. Thomas Mufanadzo
    • 1
  • Mashudu V. Phalanndwa
    • 1
  • Martin Postma
    • 1
  • Mia Wege
    • 1
  • Derek S. van der Merwe
    • 1
  • Marthán N. Bester
    • 1
  1. 1.Mammal Research Institute, Department of Zoology & EntomologyUniversity of PretoriaPretoriaSouth Africa

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