Navigation Links
Seals gamble with their pups' futures
Date:11/20/2012

Some grey seal mums adopt risky tactics when it comes to the future of their young, a strategy that can give their pup a real advantage, according to scientists.

Researchers from Durham University, UK, and the University of St Andrews, looking at grey seal colonies in Scotland, found that some seal mothers are flexible in the parenting style they adopt and 'gamble' on the outcome of their actions, whilst other play it safe and steady.

The study is the first to demonstrate how variation in personality traits in large marine mammals in the wild can persist, rather than a single, successful, personality type dominating the population.

The research shows that some seal mothers have a very fixed approach to looking after their pups, and tend to behave in a similar fashion whatever the local conditions on the breeding colony are; whether they are in a crowded and busy location, or in a less disturbed situation. These mums tend to achieve average success in terms of their pups' weight gain (crucial to the future survival of the pup), so that, by-and-large, they generally do well. These mums seem to have a 'play it safe' approach to life.

Some seal mothers have a very different approach. These mums are more flexible and try to adjust their mothering behaviour according to the local conditions. In potentially unpredictable situations, this can be risky; sometimes they get it right and their pups fare very well, but other times they might get it wrong and their pups do rather badly.

The findings, published in the journal PLoS One, show that individual animals can differ markedly in their ability to adjust their behaviour to their local environmental conditions and that large variations in behavioural strategies can persist within a species.

According to the researchers, the results for both extremes of personality show how different types can be maintained by selection. This retains behavioural diversity within a species, potentially making the species more resilient to environmental change.

The results are relevant to environment and conservation policies that use a one-size-fits-all approach, as these may need to be re-evaluated to take into account individual differences in animal personality, the researchers say.

Lead author, Dr Sean Twiss, School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Durham University, said: "Some mums have a very fixed way of caring for their pups, come what may, whilst others are more flexible. "Seals that 'gamble' and try to fit their behaviour to their immediate surroundings can do very well, if they get it right! However, being flexible can be risky - a mum might 'mis-judge' the conditions and fail to match her behaviour to the prevailing conditions.

"In either resting or disturbed situations, seal mums behaved in very individual ways, some showing high levels of maternal attentiveness, others showing low levels. Some behaved the same when disturbed as they did at rest while other individuals changed their behaviour dramatically when disturbed."

These differences in mothers' behaviour, either fixed or flexible, can have profound effects on their pups. After about 2 weeks of being looked after by their mothers, all pups are left to fend for themselves, and have to teach themselves to feed. The fatter a mum leaves her pup, the more time the pup has to learn, and its chances of surviving are better.

The scientists observed seals on the Scottish island of North Rona during the breeding season over two years. The team observed seals in their natural habitat to analyse responses to unusual stimuli (disturbances) and to assess seal behaviour at rest.

Co-author Dr Paddy Pomeroy said: "What's really interesting about these short term tests is the way behavioural types map onto individual measures of reproductive success. If more flexible mothers are better and worse pup rearers, one of our next tasks will be to see how breeding successes and failures are apportioned over lifetimes, which can only be done in this type of study."


'/>"/>

Contact: Carl Stiansen
c.r.stiansen@durham.ac.uk
44-019-133-46077
Durham University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Gray seals consume as much fish as the fishing industry catches
2. Southern elephant seals likely detect prey bioluminescence for foraging
3. Greenlands viking settlers gorged on seals
4. 2 servings of salmon a week is healthy for pregnant women and their babies
5. Study finds peoples niceness may reside in their genes
6. Lizard moms may prepare their babies for a stressful world
7. Deterring signals: Tobacco plants advertise their defensive readiness to attacking leafhoppers
8. Vampire jumping spiders identify victims by their antennae
9. New Tool Helps Drug Developers Optimize Their Research and Target Development for Better Results and a Stronger Competitive Edge
10. Parasitic plants steal genes from their hosts
11. Cougars are re-populating their historical range, new study confirms
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:5/23/2017)... first robotic gym for the rehabilitation and functional motor sense evaluation of ... Italy . The first 30 robots will be available from June ... . The technology was developed and patented at the IIT laboratories and ... thanks to a 10 million euro investment from entrepreneur Sergio Dompè. ... ...
(Date:4/19/2017)... April 19, 2017 The global ... landscape is marked by the presence of several large ... held by five major players - 3M Cogent, NEC ... accounted for nearly 61% of the global military biometric ... in the global military biometrics market boast global presence, ...
(Date:4/11/2017)... GARDENS, Fla. , April 11, 2017 /PRNewswire/ ... management and secure authentication solutions, today announced that ... by Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) to ... IARPA,s Thor program. "Innovation has been ... and IARPA,s Thor program will allow us to ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:9/21/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... September 21, 2017 , ... Dr. Greg ... Las Vegas, NV on September 27th. His presentation is at 12:10pm in the Probiotics ... able to present at SupplySide West and discuss how probiotics have shown impressive data ...
(Date:9/21/2017)... ... September 21, 2017 , ... ... portal. Each relaunch of the portal includes new features that facilitate streamlined and ... companies seek to remain at the forefront of medical advancements, they rely on ...
(Date:9/21/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... September 21, 2017 , ... ... and clinical research sector professionals, has announced the addition of 5 new courses ... training - Compliance with Regulation 21 CFR Part 11 on Electronic Records ...
(Date:9/21/2017)... ... September 21, 2017 , ... Lajollacooks4u welcomed the San Diego chapter of Les ... society of professional women with high achievement in the fields of food, fine beverage ... , Twelve members began with an olive oil tasting to whet their palettes and ...
Breaking Biology Technology: