Extreme natal philopatry in female Antarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus gazella)
Natal philopatry is an important component of mammalian behaviour but is difficult to study in natural vertebrate populations due to the requirement for long-term individual-based spatial observations. Consequently, we quantified fine-scale patterns of natal philopatry in an intensively studied colony of Antarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus gazella), where a scaffold walkway allows individual locations to be measured to the nearest metre. Using subcutaneous PIT tags, we tracked the early life histories of 335 females born within the colony, of which 38 were resighted as breeding adults. We found that individual females returned to as little as one body length (2m) of their birth locations. Moreover, distances between natal and pupping sites were not correlated with female age, but instead tended to decrease with the number of seasons an individual was sighted ashore. This suggests that breeding experience may be a better predictor than age of the ability of females to occupy preferred sites within fur seal colonies.
KeywordsPupping location Natal site fidelity Otariid Pinniped
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