Prenatal investment in the subantarctic fur seal, Arctocephalus tropicalis

Jean-Yves Georges, C Guinet

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14 Citations (Scopus)


We investigated prenatal investment in a large sexually dimorphic mammal, the subantarctic fur seal, Arctocephalus tropicalis, on Amsterdam Island in the Indian Ocean. Pups' sex ratio and body mass, body length, and body condition at birth were studied in relation to timing of birth and maternal characteristics (body length and body condition) during three consecutive breeding seasons. Pups' sex ratio did not differ from unity throughout the pupping period. The sex of the pup was related to neither maternal body length (i.e., maternal age) nor maternal body condition when mating occurred or at parturition (1 year later), which suggests that the sex ratio was not biased toward one sex during gestation. Newborn male pups were heavier and longer than female pups in all years. Longer mothers tended to arrive later in the season regardless of their body condition, and gave birth to heavier pups whatever the sex of the pup. Mothers in good condition gave birth to heavier male pups than mothers in poor condition, but no significant differences were found for female pups, suggesting that the costs of carrying male foetuses is higher than that of carrying female foetuses. Differences in allocation of maternal resources between male and female pups may be due to sex-related differences in body composition, since male pups were heavier than female pups for a given body length at birth. Thus, male and female foetuses may use maternal resources differently, with males growing in length whereas females appear to grow in body mass. The mothers we monitored over 2 consecutive years gave birth to pups that were similar in quality (in terms of birth mass) over years regardless of the sex of the previous pup and the mother's body length, suggesting that individual reproductive value is independent of maternal age. Furthermore, maternal body condition was not affected by the sex of the foetus, suggesting that there is no differential reproductive cost in carrying a male or a female foetus. Interannual differences in pup body size at birth suggest that environmental conditions such as prey availability during the last stages of gestation, and consequent maternal body condition, are important components of maternal investment in fur seals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)601-609
Number of pages9
JournalCanadian Journal of Zoology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2001


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