Sexual segregation in juvenile Antarctic fur seals
Sexual segregation, the differential space, habitat or resource use by males and females, can have profound implications for conservation, as one sex may be more vulnerable to environmental and anthropogenic stressors. The drivers of sexual segregation, such as sex differences in body size, breeding constraints, and social behaviour, have been well studied in adults but are poorly understood in immature animals. To determine whether sexual segregation occurs in juvenile Antarctic fur seals, Arctocephalus gazella, and investigate the underlying drivers, we deployed Global Location Sensors on 26 males and 19 females of 1–3 years of age at Bird Island, South Georgia. Sexual segregation occurred in foraging distribution, primarily in latitude, with females foraging closer to South Georgia and the Polar Front, and males foraging further south near the Antarctic Peninsula. This segregation was particularly evident in Feb–Apr and May–Nov, and males spent more time hauled out than females in May–Nov. Although juveniles have no immediate reproductive commitments, reproductive selection pressures are still likely to operate and drive sex differences in body size, risk-taking, and social roles. These factors, coupled with prey distribution, likely contributed to sexual segregation in juvenile Antarctic fur seals. Consequently, male and female juveniles may compete with different fisheries and respond differently to environmental change, highlighting the importance of considering sex and age groups in species conservation efforts.
Authors: Jones, Kayleigh A. ORCID record for Kayleigh A. Jones, Ratcliffe, Norman, Votier, Stephen C., Lisovski, Simeon, Bonnet-Lebrun, Anne-Sophie, Staniland, Iain J. ORCID record for Iain J. Staniland