Adapted to change: Low energy requirements in a low and unpredictable productivity environment, the case of the Galapagos sea lion

Pay-walled/Intertek link Peer Reviewed Publication 2016

Deep-Sea Research II in press

The rate of energy expenditure and acquisition are fundamental components of an animals’ life history. Within mammals, the otariids (sea lions and fur seals) exhibit energetically expensive life styles, which can be challenging in equatorial regions where resources are particularly limited and unpredictable. To better understand how this energetically expensive life history pattern functions in an energetically challenging equatorial system, we concurrently measured the field metabolic rate (FMR) and foraging behavior of lactating Galapagos sea lions (GSL) rearing pups and yearlings. Females with pups tended to forage to the north, diving deeper, epi and mesopelagically compared to females with yearlings, which foraged to the west and performed dives to the sea bed that were shallower. FMR did not differ between females with pups or yearlings but, increased significantly with % time spent at-sea. Females with yearlings had higher water influx, suggesting greater food intake, but had lower body condition. The FMR (4.0870.6 W/kg) of GSL is the lowest measured for any otariid, but is consistent with Galapagos fur seals which also exhibit low FMR. The observation that these two otariids have reduced energy requirements is consistent with an adaptation to the reduced prey availability of the Galapagos marine environment compared to other more productive marine systems.

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