Energy requirements make Antarctic fur seal pups vulnerable to climate change

Mar 21, 2012
A study published in the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology found that changing weather conditions can impact the metabolic rates of fur seal pups. Climate models predict windier and wetter conditions in Antarctica in the coming years, and that could cause young seals to assign more energy to thermoregulation, leaving less available for growth and development. Credit: Photo courtesy of Physiological and Biochemical Zoology/University of Chicago Press

A new study suggests that climate change could pose a risk for Antarctic fur seals in their first few months of life.

The study, published in the journal Physiological and , found that changing weather conditions can impact the of fur . predict windier and in Antarctica in the coming years, and that could cause young seals to assign more energy to thermoregulation, leaving less available for growth and development.

For their study, a team of scientists led by Dr. Birgitte McDonald (University of University of California, Santa Cruz) gathered data from 48 young seals on Livingston Island, just off the Antarctic Peninsula, to find out how much energy pups get from their mothers and how they use it.

"Energy budgets are important if we are to understand how individuals interact with their environment," McDonald said. "In juvenile animals we need to know how they allocate energy towards growth, , maintenance including thermoregulation, and development of foraging skills to facilitate a successful transition to independence."

The team measured milk , field metabolic rate, and growth rate over three developmental periods during in the seals' first four months of life, when they are completely dependent on mother's milk. The research found that in newborn pups, around 60 percent of the milk energy they receive from their mothers goes to growth. But as the pups get older and their mothers begin leaving them behind periodically to go on foraging trips, that percentage begins to fall. By the age of one month, pups only have about 25 percent of their energy available for growth.

As expected, the researchers found that the biggest predictor of a pup's growth rate was the amount of milk they ingested, showing just how important maternal investment is when growing up in such harsh conditions. But other factors were also important in determining a pup's energy throughput, including the pup's size and condition at birth and environmental factors like weather.

"If climate change models are correct and the gets windier and wetter weather, this may influence how much energy is available for growth," McDonald said. "Changes in prey availability and climate may lead pups to conserve energy by sacrificing the development of foraging skill or to wean at a lower mass or body condition, resulting in negative impacts on the ability to transition successfully to nutritional independence."

McDonald hopes the research will lead to better predictions about how a changing environment may ultimately affect young seals and seal populations.

Explore further: PacifiCorp Energy pleads guilty in bird deaths (Update)

More information: Birgitte I. McDonald, Michael E. Goebel, Daniel E. Crocker, Daniel P. Costa, "Biological and Environmental Drivers of Energy Allocation in a Dependent Mammal, the Antarctic Fur Seal Pup." Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 85:2 (March/April 2012).

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User comments : 21

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MR166
1.9 / 5 (17) Mar 21, 2012
Is all research this ludicrous or only the research reported by Physorg.com????

No wonder you cannot pay off your student loan and get a job. We are wasting all of our research dollars on this type of nonsense. I can assure you that China isn't!!!!

Perhaps you can get a job there when the US goes bankrupt.
gmurphy
3.3 / 5 (9) Mar 21, 2012
What is ludicrous about this research?, there's hundreds of other studies like it on physorg, scientists take the results of models and extrapolate them. The study of biology has led to genetic engineering and stem cells, your assertion that this study is nonsense is predicated upon your certainty that insights gained from these studies will never be useful to anyone else, which, in the absence of any supporting argument, is more akin to the ravings of a drooling idiot, go back to your bible and wallow in your ignorance.
MR166
1.7 / 5 (17) Mar 21, 2012
Yea, right. Imagine putting that research on your resume when applying for a job at IBM. What have you done for the past few years? I stood out in the cold milking fur seals.

Give me a break! The US does not have the resources to allow this many people to do useless "Work". The CO2 scam is draining valuable resources and forcing us waste precious dollars on needless projects.
ryggesogn2
1.8 / 5 (15) Mar 21, 2012
scientists take the results of models and extrapolate them

Quite unpredictable.
MR166
1.7 / 5 (17) Mar 21, 2012
Anyone who does not know the real purpose of the article has to be brain dead. Starting with the loveable seal photograph at the head of the article it proceeds to tell us how a few tenths of a degree of warming (climate change) will cause all of these adorable baby seals to wither and die.

Any one with half a brain can see the political motivation behind this sort of "research" err propaganda.
Estevan57
2.4 / 5 (33) Mar 22, 2012
"Any one with half a brain can see the political motivation behind this sort of "research" err propaganda."

Seems to me like someone with half a brain sees propaganda in research.

Ok, we get it, you don't believe in climate change.

What did mr166 say to the baby seal? Welcome to the club.

Perfectly legit research. Get used to it.
Vendicar_Decarian
3.2 / 5 (9) Mar 22, 2012
Conservatives like Mr166 must be kept from positions of power for if they are in power their decisions will bring nothing but disaster and mass death.
MR166
2 / 5 (12) Mar 22, 2012
VD you might not realize the purpose of this sort of propaganda but I do. It is just part of a slow step by step process to strip individuals and nations of their autonomy. The ultimate goal is to form a one world government with all of the power and wealth concentrated in the hands of a select few. Here in the US it is hard enough to deal with the local governments if you want to start a new project. If the state gets involved it becomes a tangled mess. If the federal government gets involved it becomes impossible for the average person to cope with the regulations. So imagine what it will be like when something like the UN has the final say on the laws that govern YOU!

Contrary to the liberal/progressive/socialist/communist dream, more government equals less creation of wealth, more poverty and more starvation.
gmurphy
3.3 / 5 (7) Mar 22, 2012
"the liberal/progressive/socialist/communist dream", wow, what a well thought out argument, you've certainly given me pause for thought, I particularly like the way you occasionally use upper case for emphasis, ordinarily, that would make you look like a CRAZY PERSON.
MR166
1.8 / 5 (15) Mar 22, 2012
Whats the matter Murph, did I hit a sore spot?

It always amazes me how the "open minded and tolerant" liberals are the first to start calling dissenters ugly names on these boards.
Estevan57
2.2 / 5 (26) Mar 22, 2012
He is probably shaking his head in wonder at the ferver of your conspiracy theories.

"Contrary to the liberal/progressive/socialist/communist dream, more government equals less creation of wealth, more poverty and more starvation." BS.

Get out of the political sewer, research is research.

How does research on the metabolism of immature seals result in an increase of government size, less wealth, more poverty, starvation, and a socialist state, Komrade? CRAZY PERSON.

MR166
2.2 / 5 (13) Mar 22, 2012
"How does research on the metabolism of immature seals result in an increase of government size, less wealth, more poverty, starvation, and a socialist state, Komrade? CRAZY PERSON."

UHHH, the very first paragraph.

"The study, published in the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, found that changing weather conditions can impact the metabolic rates of fur seal pups. Climate models predict windier and wetter conditions in Antarctica in the coming years, and that could cause young seals to assign more energy to thermoregulation, leaving less available for growth and development."

The whole study is based on the supposed AGW not natural climate change. They have no basis to predict that the Arctic will be wetter or warmer in the future other than some contrived climate model who's outcome was predetermined.
MR166
1.9 / 5 (13) Mar 22, 2012
BTW please change Arctic to Antarctic, a little typo there.
Estevan57
2.3 / 5 (27) Mar 22, 2012
Nothing wrong with the reasoning behind the study, the climate models are scientifically accepted also.

How does research on the metabolism of immature seals result in an increase of government size, less wealth, more poverty, starvation, and a socialist state? Answer?

"If climate change models are correct and the Antarctic Peninsula gets windier and wetter weather, this may influence how much energy is available for growth," McDonald said."

Notice the first word there? It means IF.

There is not one word in this article stating the cause of arctic climate changes. Get off the agenda train.
Vendicar_Decarian
3.3 / 5 (7) Mar 22, 2012
We don't like chronic liars.

"It always amazes me how the "open minded and tolerant" liberals are the first to start calling dissenters ugly names on these boards." - Mr166
Vendicar_Decarian
3.7 / 5 (7) Mar 22, 2012
Supposedly North America just went through a winter.

In reality however there was no climatological winter. It was entirely missing. An astonishing event that has never been seen in all of human history.

"The whole study is based on the supposed AGW not natural climate change." - Mr166
Estevan57
2.3 / 5 (27) Mar 22, 2012
I have two inches of snow on the ground, just so ya know. I also prefer the word climate change, but thats just me.
MR166
1.7 / 5 (11) Mar 23, 2012
"In reality however there was no climatological winter. It was entirely missing. An astonishing event that has never been seen in all of human history."

VD would you like to back up that statement with any real data?
Vendicar_Decarian
4 / 5 (5) Mar 23, 2012
MR166
1.4 / 5 (9) Mar 23, 2012
"....all of human history."

So that equals 63 years eh. Gee I guess that I was born before records existed.
Vendicar_Decarian
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 23, 2012
http://www.ncdc.n...nsa.html

"So that equals 63 years eh." - Mr166Tard

http://media.wile...g002.jpg

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