Factors affecting weaning weight in Antarctic fur seals Arctocephalus gazella at South Georgia
Relationships between size, body condition, age and feeding-attendance patterns during pup rearing of female Antacrtic fur seals Arctocephalus gazella and their effects on the timing of birth and weaning, pup weight, growth and condition were studied at South Georgia in 1981–1982. Twenty-seven (6 male, 21 female) mother-pup pairs were followed from birth to weaning. The analysis of maternal effects was limited to female pups because of the small sample size of male weaners. High weaning weight was associated with those female pups whose mothers spent more time ashore attending their offspring. Weaning weight showed no relationship with perinatal duration, number of feeding trips to sea, days at sea or date of weaning. A further 63 mother-pup pairs were analysed for the effects of maternal body condition (weight/length), age and timing of birth on offspring body weight and condition. Pup weight and condition were weakly correlated with maternal age in female pups. Male pups born earlier in the season were heavier and in better condition. Maternal and offspring body weight and condition were unrelated. For the Antarctic fur seal population at South Georgia where the food supply was apparently not limiting in summer, maternal condition and foraging time were subordinate to maternal care on land (as expressed by attendance duration) in determining offspring weight at weaning.