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Differential mobilization of blubber fatty acids in lactating Weddell seals: Evidence for selective use

Wheatley, KE, Nichols, PD, Hindell, MA, Harcourt, RG and Bradshaw, CJA 2008 , 'Differential mobilization of blubber fatty acids in lactating Weddell seals: Evidence for selective use' , Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, vol. 81, no. 5 , pp. 651-662 , doi:

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A major source of energy during lactation in mammals is provided through the mobilization of blubber fatty acids (FA). We investigated the extent to which FA were mobilized to support both maternal metabolic requirements and milk production in the Weddell seal, and how this was reflected in the FA composition of the pup’s blubber at the end of lactation (EL). FA composition of post-partum female blubber was similar in the two years of study (2002 & 2003), but differed markedly by EL. Pup blubber FA (at EL) were also different between years and did not match that of the mother’s milk or blubber. Milk FA composition changed during lactation, which may have been a reflection of an increase in pup energy demands at different stages of development. In addition, there was evidence of feeding by some females during lactation, with higher levels of some FA in the milk than in the blubber. Our results indicate that differential mobilization of FA occurred in lactating Weddell seals and that this was related to total body lipid stores at post-partum. Furthermore, growing pups did not store FA unmodified, providing evidence that selective use does occur, and also that using FA composition to elucidate dietary sources may be problematic in growing individuals.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Wheatley, KE and Nichols, PD and Hindell, MA and Harcourt, RG and Bradshaw, CJA
Journal or Publication Title: Physiological and Biochemical Zoology
ISSN: 1522-2152
DOI / ID Number:
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