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Ecol Evol ; 12(3): e8757, 2022 Mar.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-35356576


Individuals are unique in how they interact with and respond to their environment. Correspondingly, unpredictable challenges or environmental stressors often produce an individualized response of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and its downstream effector cortisol. We used a fully crossed, repeated measures design to investigate the factors shaping individual variation in baseline cortisol in Antarctic fur seal pups and their mothers. Saliva samples were collected from focal individuals at two breeding colonies, one with low and the other with high density, during two consecutive years of contrasting food availability. Mothers and pups were sampled concurrently at birth and shortly before weaning, while pups were additionally sampled every 20 days. We found that heritability was low for baseline cortisol, while within-individual repeatability and among-individual variability were high. A substantial proportion of the variation in baseline cortisol could be explained in pups and mothers by a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic factors including sex, weight, day, season, and colony of birth. Our findings provide detailed insights into the individualization of endocrine phenotypes and their genetic and environmental drivers in a wild pinniped. Furthermore, the strong associations between cortisol and life history traits that we report in fur seals could have important implications for understanding the population dynamics of species impacted by environmental change.

Sci Rep ; 11(1): 14323, 2021 07 12.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-34253749


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.

Otárias/fisiologia , Animais , Cadeias de Markov , Temperatura
Proc Biol Sci ; 288(1947): 20202882, 2021 03 31.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-33757358


Allee effects play an important role in the dynamics of many populations and can increase the risk of local extinction. However, some authors have questioned the weight of evidence for Allee effects in wild populations. We therefore exploited a natural experiment provided by two adjacent breeding colonies of contrasting density to investigate the potential for Allee effects in an Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella) population that is declining in response to climate change-induced reductions in food availability. Biometric time-series data were collected from 25 pups per colony during two consecutive breeding seasons, the first of which was among the worst on record in terms of breeding female numbers, pup birth weights and foraging trip durations. In previous decades when population densities were higher, pup mortality was consistently negatively density dependent, with rates of trauma and starvation scaling positively with density. However, we found the opposite, with higher pup mortality at low density and the majority of deaths attributable to predation. In parallel, body condition was depressed at low density, particularly in the poor-quality season. Our findings shed light on Allee effects in wild populations and highlight a potential emerging role of predators in the ongoing decline of a pinniped species.

Otárias , Animais , Regiões Antárticas , Feminino , Densidade Demográfica , Comportamento Predatório , Estações do Ano
Ecol Evol ; 8(12): 6081-6090, 2018 Jun.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-29988430


Southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) are known to move and aggregate while molting, but little is known about their behavior on land during this time. In this study, 60 adult females were monitored (23 with GPS tags) during four molting seasons, between 2012 and 2016 at Kerguelen Archipelago, Indian Ocean. Population surveys were recorded each year (N = 230 daily counts), and habitat use was analyzed in relation to the stage of the molt and local weather. Based on stage of molt, habitat use, and movements on land, we classified the molt of elephant seals into three phases: (1) a "search phase" at the initial stage of molt when grass and wallow habitats were used and characterized by greater mean distances travelled on land per day compared with the two other phases; (2) a "resident phase": during initial and mid-stage of molt when animals were found in grass and wallow habitats but with less distance moved on land; and (3) a "termination phase" at the final stage of molt where grass and beach habitats were occupied with no change in distances. Windchill and solar radiation influenced individual distances moved per day (mean 590 ± 237.0 m) at the mid- and final stage of molt such that animals travelled greater distances on days of low windchill or high solar radiation. Individual variation in distance moved and relative habitat use were also linked to body mass index (BMI) at arrival on the colony, as females with higher BMI moved less and preferred beach habitat. Moreover, the individual rate of molt increased with the use of wallows. Aggregation rate tended to be negatively correlated with distances moved. We therefore suggest that individuals face an energetic trade-off while molting, balancing energy expenditure between movement and thermoregulation.

J Ethol ; 36(1): 85-91, 2018.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-30679883


In animals, it is known that age affects the abilities of the brain. In spiders, we showed that aging affects web characteristics due to behavioral alterations during web building. In this study, we investigated the effects of age on the associations between morphological changes to the spider brain and changes in web characteristics. The orb web spider Zygiella x-notata (Araneae, Araneidae) was used to test these relationships. Experiments were conducted on young (19 ± 2 days after adult molt, N = 13) and old (146 ± 32 days, N = 20) virgin females. The brain volume decreased with age (by 10%). Age also had an impact on the number of anomalies in the capture area generated during web building. The statistical relationships between the volume of the brain and web characteristics showed that there was an effect of age on both. Our results showed that in spiders, aging affects the brain volume and correlates with characteristics (anomalies) of the web. As web building is the result of complex behavioral processes, we suggest that aging affects spider behavior by causing some brain alterations.

Curr Zool ; 62(2): 123-130, 2016 Apr.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-29491899


It is well known that age influences organism mobility. This was demonstrated in vertebrates (such as mammals and birds) but has been less studied in invertebrates with the exception of Drosophila and the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Here we studied the influence of age on the mobility of the orb-weaving spider Zygiella x-notata during web construction. The orb-web is a good model because it has a characteristic geometrical structure and video tracking can be used to easily follow the spider's movements during web building. We investigated the influence of age (specifically chronological age, life span, and time till death) on different parameters of spider mobility during the construction of the capture spiral (distance traveled, duration of construction, spider velocity, spider movement, and spider inactivity) with a generalized linear model (GLM) procedure adjusted for the spider mass. The results showed that neither chronological age, nor life span affected the mobility parameters. However, when the time till death decreased, there was a decrease in the distance traveled, the duration of the construction of the capture spiral, and the spider movement. The spider velocity and the time of inactivity were not affected. These results could be correlated with a decrease in the length of the silky thread deposited for the construction of the capture spiral. Spiders with a shorter time till death built smaller web using less silk. Thus, our study suggests strongly that time till death affects spider mobility during web construction but not the chronological age and thus may be a good indicator of senescence.