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Differential resource allocation strategies in juvenile elephant seals in the highly seasonal Southern Ocean


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Field, IC, Bradshaw, CJA, Burton, HR and Hindell, MA 2007 , 'Differential resource allocation strategies in juvenile elephant seals in the highly seasonal Southern Ocean' , Marine Ecology - Progress Series, vol. 331 , pp. 281-290 , doi: 10.3354/meps331281.

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Environmental conditions experienced in early life affect growth and influence life history
strategies, especially in seasonal environments. We studied the seasonal and sexual variation in
resource allocation in juvenile southern elephant seals to investigate whether they show a seasonal
decline in growth. We also examined whether sexual differences in growth may lead to separate
growth strategies that suit each sex in maximizing fitness. We examined the variation in length (as a
measure of somatic growth), body mass and condition of 470 individual 1- to 4-yr-old elephant seals
relative to their different growth strategies. Applying a novel growth function, we observed
increased somatic growth in summer compared to winter. Males were larger, had higher proportions
of lean tissue and grew faster than females, demonstrating the evolution of a male growth strategy of
attaining maximum size quickly, and a female strategy of achieving primiparity at an early age. This
evidence supports the idea that seasonal patterns reflect seasonal variation in prey availability and
quality, and differential growth strategies promote optimal resource allocation and increase an individual’s
probability of survival and future breeding success in the highly dynamic and seasonal
Southern Ocean

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Field, IC and Bradshaw, CJA and Burton, HR and Hindell, MA
Keywords: Southern elephant seals · Resource allocation · Growth · Sexual dimorphism · Seasonal environment
Journal or Publication Title: Marine Ecology - Progress Series
Publisher: Inter-Research
ISSN: 0171-8630
DOI / ID Number: 10.3354/meps331281
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