Forum für Wissenschaft, Industrie und Wirtschaft

Hauptsponsoren:     3M 
Datenbankrecherche:

 

Seals gamble with their pups' futures

21.11.2012
Some grey seal mums adopt risky tactics when it comes to the future of their young, a strategy that can give their pup a real advantage, according to scientists.

Researchers from Durham University, UK, and the University of St Andrews, looking at grey seal colonies in Scotland, found that some seal mothers are flexible in the parenting style they adopt and 'gamble' on the outcome of their actions, whilst other play it safe and steady.

The study is the first to demonstrate how variation in personality traits in large marine mammals in the wild can persist, rather than a single, successful, personality type dominating the population.

The research shows that some seal mothers have a very fixed approach to looking after their pups, and tend to behave in a similar fashion whatever the local conditions on the breeding colony are; whether they are in a crowded and busy location, or in a less disturbed situation. These mums tend to achieve average success in terms of their pups' weight gain (crucial to the future survival of the pup), so that, by-and-large, they generally do well. These mums seem to have a 'play it safe' approach to life.

Some seal mothers have a very different approach. These mums are more flexible and try to adjust their mothering behaviour according to the local conditions. In potentially unpredictable situations, this can be risky; sometimes they get it right and their pups fare very well, but other times they might get it wrong and their pups do rather badly.

The findings, published in the journal PLoS One, show that individual animals can differ markedly in their ability to adjust their behaviour to their local environmental conditions and that large variations in behavioural strategies can persist within a species.

According to the researchers, the results for both extremes of personality show how different types can be maintained by selection. This retains behavioural diversity within a species, potentially making the species more resilient to environmental change.

The results are relevant to environment and conservation policies that use a one-size-fits-all approach, as these may need to be re-evaluated to take into account individual differences in animal personality, the researchers say.

Lead author, Dr Sean Twiss, School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Durham University, said: "Some mums have a very fixed way of caring for their pups, come what may, whilst others are more flexible. "Seals that 'gamble' and try to fit their behaviour to their immediate surroundings can do very well, if they get it right! However, being flexible can be risky - a mum might 'mis-judge' the conditions and fail to match her behaviour to the prevailing conditions.

"In either resting or disturbed situations, seal mums behaved in very individual ways, some showing high levels of maternal attentiveness, others showing low levels. Some behaved the same when disturbed as they did at rest while other individuals changed their behaviour dramatically when disturbed."

These differences in mothers' behaviour, either fixed or flexible, can have profound effects on their pups. After about 2 weeks of being looked after by their mothers, all pups are left to fend for themselves, and have to teach themselves to feed. The fatter a mum leaves her pup, the more time the pup has to learn, and its chances of surviving are better.

The scientists observed seals on the Scottish island of North Rona during the breeding season over two years. The team observed seals in their natural habitat to analyse responses to unusual stimuli (disturbances) and to assess seal behaviour at rest.

Co-author Dr Paddy Pomeroy said: "What's really interesting about these short term tests is the way behavioural types map onto individual measures of reproductive success. If more flexible mothers are better and worse pup rearers, one of our next tasks will be to see how breeding successes and failures are apportioned over lifetimes, which can only be done in this type of study."

The research has been part-funded by NERC, The Living With Environmental Change partnership, and the Esmée Fairburn Foundation.

How they did it: The researchers ran 30-minute observations on 14 females to see how they behaved at rest. The team measured the attentiveness of the mothers towards their pups during these periods by recording the number of pup checks made (where the mother raises her head off the ground and moves it in the direction of her young to check their well-being).

Repeating these observations twice on each seal showed that mothers varied considerably, and consistently, in their behaviour, with some showing low levels of maternal attentiveness, whilst others checked their pups much more often.

The team then used a remote controlled vehicle (RCV) with a fitted video camera to test how seals reacted to mild disturbance, including approaches by the RCV and wolf calls played from the vehicle.

The seals varied in their responses to the RCV from almost completely ignoring its presence to pushing it with their muzzles. Again, mothers varied considerably in the number of pup checks they made during these disturbances.

The team also measured and weighed each seal mum and pup before and after each test and observation. Comparing these measurements for the behaviourally 'fixed' and 'flexible' seals, the team found an intriguing pattern: All mums with the 'fixed' approach had very average pup growth rates, while some of the 'flexible' mums did really well, with their pups growing at twice the rate of others, but the rest did rather poorly, with pup growth rates well below average.

The researchers can identify individual seals using their unique and varied patterns on their fur and this allows them to observe maternal behaviour over multiple years as seals generally return to the same site to breed.

Carl Stiansen | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.durham.ac.uk

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Value from wastewater
16.08.2017 | Hochschule Landshut

nachricht Species Richness – a false friend? Scientists want to improve biodiversity assessments
01.08.2017 | Carl von Ossietzky-Universität Oldenburg

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Unterwasserroboter soll nach einem Jahr in der arktischen Tiefsee auftauchen

Am Dienstag, den 22. August wird das Forschungsschiff Polarstern im norwegischen Tromsø zu einer besonderen Expedition in die Arktis starten: Der autonome Unterwasserroboter TRAMPER soll nach einem Jahr Einsatzzeit am arktischen Tiefseeboden auftauchen. Dieses Gerät und weitere robotische Systeme, die Tiefsee- und Weltraumforscher im Rahmen der Helmholtz-Allianz ROBEX gemeinsam entwickelt haben, werden nun knapp drei Wochen lang unter Realbedingungen getestet. ROBEX hat das Ziel, neue Technologien für die Erkundung schwer erreichbarer Gebiete mit extremen Umweltbedingungen zu entwickeln.

„Auftauchen wird der TRAMPER“, sagt Dr. Frank Wenzhöfer vom Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung (AWI) selbstbewusst. Der...

Im Focus: Mit Barcodes der Zellentwicklung auf der Spur

Darüber, wie sich Blutzellen entwickeln, existieren verschiedene Auffassungen – sie basieren jedoch fast ausschließlich auf Experimenten, die lediglich Momentaufnahmen widerspiegeln. Wissenschaftler des Deutschen Krebsforschungszentrums stellen nun im Fachjournal Nature eine neue Technik vor, mit der sich das Geschehen dynamisch erfassen lässt: Mithilfe eines „Zufallsgenerators“ versehen sie Blutstammzellen mit genetischen Barcodes und können so verfolgen, welche Zelltypen aus der Stammzelle hervorgehen. Diese Technik erlaubt künftig völlig neue Einblicke in die Entwicklung unterschiedlicher Gewebe sowie in die Krebsentstehung.

Wie entsteht die Vielzahl verschiedener Zelltypen im Blut? Diese Frage beschäftigt Wissenschaftler schon lange. Nach der klassischen Vorstellung fächern sich...

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Forscher entwickeln maisförmigen Arzneimittel-Transporter zum Inhalieren

Er sieht aus wie ein Maiskolben, ist winzig wie ein Bakterium und kann einen Wirkstoff direkt in die Lungenzellen liefern: Das zylinderförmige Vehikel für Arzneistoffe, das Pharmazeuten der Universität des Saarlandes entwickelt haben, kann inhaliert werden. Professor Marc Schneider und sein Team machen sich dabei die körpereigene Abwehr zunutze: Makrophagen, die Fresszellen des Immunsystems, fressen den gesundheitlich unbedenklichen „Nano-Mais“ und setzen dabei den in ihm enthaltenen Wirkstoff frei. Bei ihrer Forschung arbeiteten die Pharmazeuten mit Forschern der Medizinischen Fakultät der Saar-Uni, des Leibniz-Instituts für Neue Materialien und der Universität Marburg zusammen Ihre Forschungsergebnisse veröffentlichten die Wissenschaftler in der Fachzeitschrift Advanced Healthcare Materials. DOI: 10.1002/adhm.201700478

Ein Medikament wirkt nur, wenn es dort ankommt, wo es wirken soll. Wird ein Mittel inhaliert, muss der Wirkstoff in der Lunge zuerst die Hindernisse...

Im Focus: Exotische Quantenzustände: Physiker erzeugen erstmals optische „Töpfe" für ein Super-Photon

Physikern der Universität Bonn ist es gelungen, optische Mulden und komplexere Muster zu erzeugen, in die das Licht eines Bose-Einstein-Kondensates fließt. Die Herstellung solch sehr verlustarmer Strukturen für Licht ist eine Voraussetzung für komplexe Schaltkreise für Licht, beispielsweise für die Quanteninformationsverarbeitung einer neuen Computergeneration. Die Wissenschaftler stellen nun ihre Ergebnisse im Fachjournal „Nature Photonics“ vor.

Lichtteilchen (Photonen) kommen als winzige, unteilbare Portionen vor. Viele Tausend dieser Licht-Portionen lassen sich zu einem einzigen Super-Photon...

Alle Focus-News des Innovations-reports >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

IHR
JOB & KARRIERE
SERVICE
im innovations-report
in Kooperation mit academics
Veranstaltungen

European Conference on Eye Movements: Internationale Tagung an der Bergischen Universität Wuppertal

18.08.2017 | Veranstaltungen

Einblicke ins menschliche Denken

17.08.2017 | Veranstaltungen

Eröffnung der INC.worX-Erlebniswelt während der Technologie- und Innovationsmanagement-Tagung 2017

16.08.2017 | Veranstaltungen

 
VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
Weitere VideoLinks >>>
Aktuelle Beiträge

Eine Karte der Zellkraftwerke

18.08.2017 | Biowissenschaften Chemie

Chronische Infektionen aushebeln: Ein neuer Wirkstoff auf dem Weg in die Entwicklung

18.08.2017 | Biowissenschaften Chemie

Computer mit Köpfchen

18.08.2017 | Informationstechnologie