Movement patterns and activity levels are shaped by the neonatal environment in Antarctic fur seal pups
Tracking studies of juveniles are rare compared to those of adults, and consequently little is known about the influence of intrinsic and extrinsic factors on activity during this critical life stage. We used hourly GPS data, collected from 66 Antarctic fur seal pups from birth until moulting, to investigate the explanatory power of multiple individual-based and environmental variables on activity levels. Pups were sampled from two nearby breeding colonies of contrasting density during two subsequent years, and a two-state hidden Markov model was used to identify modalities in their movement behaviour, specifically ‘active’ and ‘inactive’ states. We found that movement was typified by central place exploration, with active movement away from and subsequent return to a location of inactivity. The probability of such directed exploration was unaffected by several factors known to influence marine mammal movement including sex, body condition, and temperature. Compared to pups born at the high-density colony, pups at low-density were more active, increased their activity with age, and transitioned earlier into the tussock grass, which offers protection from predators and extreme weather. Our study illustrates the importance of extrinsic factors, such as colony of birth, to early-life activity patterns and highlights the adaptive potential of movement.
Authors: Nagel, Rebecca, Mews, Sina, Adam, Timo, Stainfield, Claire, Fox-Clarke, Cameron, Toscani, Camille, Langrock, Roland, Forcada, Jaume ORCID record for Jaume Forcada, Hoffman, Joseph I.