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Early-life sexual segregation: ontogeny of isotopic niche differentiation in the Antarctic fur seal
Kernaléguen, L.; Arnould, J.P.Y.; Guinet, G.; Cazelles, B.; Richard, P.; Cherel, Y. (2016). Early-life sexual segregation: ontogeny of isotopic niche differentiation in the Antarctic fur seal. NPG Scientific Reports 6(33211): 10 pp. hdl.handle.net/10.1038/srep33211
In: Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing Group). Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 2045-2322, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keywords
    Arctocephalus gazella (Peters, 1875) [WoRMS]; Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Kernaléguen, L.
  • Arnould, J.P.Y.
  • Guinet, G.
  • Cazelles, B.
  • Richard, P.
  • Cherel, Y.

Abstract
    Investigating the ontogeny of niche differentiation enables to determine at which life-stages sexual segregation arises, providing insights into the main factors driving resource partitioning. We investigated the ontogeny of foraging ecology in Antarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus gazella), a highly dimorphic species with contrasting breeding strategies between sexes. Sequential d13C and d15N values of whiskers provided a longitudinal proxy of the foraging niche throughout the whole life of seals, from weaning, when size dimorphism is minimal to the age of 5. Females exhibited an early-life ontogenetic shift, from a total segregation during their first year at-sea, to a similar isotopic niche as breeding females as early as age 2. In contrast, males showed a progressive change in isotopic niche throughout their development such that 5-year-old males did not share the same niche as territorial bulls. Interestingly, males and females segregated straight after weaning with males appearing to feed in more southerly habitats than females. This spatial segregation was of similar amplitude as observed in breeding adults and was maintained throughout development. Such early-life niche differentiation is an unusual pattern and indicates size dimorphism and breeding constraints do not directly drive sexual segregation contrary to what has been assumed in otariid seals.

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