Colony-specific differences in decadal longitudinal body composition of a capital-breeding marine top predator

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1. Capital breeding animals such as true seals (Phocidae) rely on accumulated body reserves to rear offspring. A mother's body composition at the start of a breeding episode may depend on recent environmental conditions and sets the resources available for the reproductive episode.
2.  At two grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) breeding colonies with contrasting demographic characteristics, factors influencing individual variation and temporal trends in the body composition (expressed as the lipid‐to‐protein mass ratio) of females were examined.
3.  Maternal reproductive expenditure, and the consequences for mothers and their pups, were investigated.
4.  Individual variation in postpartum maternal body composition was considerable. Mean values of 27% (±5%) lipid and 18% (±1%) protein were estimated by hydrogen isotope dilution. No evidence of age effects was detected.
5.  Mothers with a high lipid‐to‐protein mass ratio expended a higher proportion of lipid resources, conserved protein and returned with more protein the following year.
6.  Average maternal postpartum body composition was similar between the two colonies, but temporal patterns differed at one colony where pup production was decreasing from another where pup production was increasing. Mothers at the declining colony consistently weaned larger pups than mothers at the increasing colony across the range of mother sizes, but measures of maternal body composition did not predict pup weaning masses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-143
JournalAquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems
Issue number51
Early online date6 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sept 2019


  • Behaviour
  • Costal
  • Mammals
  • Physiology
  • Reproduction


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