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"Mobbing" in Hawaiian Monk Seals (Monachus schauinslani): The Value of Simulation Modeling in the Absence of Apparently Crucial Data

Anthony M. Starfield, James D. Roth and Katherine Ralls
Conservation Biology
Vol. 9, No. 1 (Feb., 1995), pp. 166-174
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2386398
Page Count: 9
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Abstract

Several small populations of Hawaiian monk seals (Monachus schauinslani) exhibit male-biased adult sex ratios and "mobbing," an aggressive behavior in which adult males injure and often kill adult females and immature seals of both sexes during mating attempts. Mobbing appears to be limiting the growth of some populations of this endangered species. The frequency of mobbing deaths appears to increase as a population's sex ratio becomes increasingly male-biased, although the exact relationship between these two variables (the mobbing response) is unknown. We developed a stochastic demographic model of a small Hawaiian monk seal population using several different assumptions about the mobbing response. We used the model to explore the origins of male-biased sex ratios in monk seal populations and to determine whether it was possible, given the lack of data on the mobbing response, to evaluate the probable effects of alternative management strategies to address the mobbing problem. Small populations (100 to 200 seals) and those with slower growth rates were more likely to develop male-biased adult sex ratios. Almost all of our modeling scenarios supported the immediate removal of males from populations where mobbing occurs. Our conclusions were relatively unaffected when the assumptions regarding the mobbing response were varied. Thus, a model was helpful even when apparently crucial data were unavailable.

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