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Energetic Costs and Thermoregulation in Northern Fur Seal (Callorhinus ursinus) Pups: The Importance of Behavioral Strategies for Thermal Balance in Furred Marine Mammals

Heather E. M. Liwanag
Physiological and Biochemical Zoology: Ecological and Evolutionary Approaches
Vol. 83, No. 6 (November/December 2010), pp. 898-910
DOI: 10.1086/656426
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/656426
Page Count: 13
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Energetic Costs and Thermoregulation in Northern Fur
Seal (Callorhinus ursinus) Pups: The Importance of
Behavioral Strategies for Thermal Balance in Furred Marine Mammals
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Abstract

Abstract Behavioral thermoregulation represents an important strategy for reducing energetic costs in thermally challenging environments, particularly among terrestrial vertebrates. Because of the cryptic lifestyle of aquatic species, the energetic benefits of such behaviors in marine endotherms have been much more difficult to demonstrate. In this study, I examined the importance of behavioral thermoregulation in the northern fur seal (Callorhinus ursinus) pup, a small-bodied endotherm that spends prolonged periods at sea. The thermal neutral zones of three weaned male northern fur seal pups (body mass range = 11.8–12.8 kg) were determined by measuring resting metabolic rate using open-flow respirometry at water temperatures ranging from 2.5° to 25.0°C. Metabolic rate averaged mL O2 kg−1 min−1 for pups resting within their thermal neutral zone; lower critical temperature was , approximately 8°C higher than the coldest sea surface temperatures encountered in northern Pacific waters. To determine whether behavioral strategies could mitigate this potential thermal limitation, I measured metabolic rate during grooming activities and the unique jughandling behavior of fur seals. Both sedentary grooming and active grooming resulted in significant increases in metabolic rate relative to rest (), and percent time spent grooming increased significantly at colder water temperatures (). Jughandling metabolic rate ( mL O2 kg−1 min−1) was significantly greater than resting rates at water temperatures within the thermal neutral zone () but less than resting metabolism at colder water temperatures. These data indicate that behavioral strategies may help to mitigate thermal challenges faced by northern fur seal pups while resting at sea.

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