Health and condition in the adult Weddell seal of McMurdo Sound, Antarctica

Zoology : Analysis of Complex Systems, ZACS
J MellishM Horning


Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) are large-bodied, long-lived mammals that live only in the circumpolar Antarctic. As such, they represent an ideal sentinel species for the impacts of environmental change on polar species. However, longitudinal physiological studies of marine mammals are notoriously difficult due to their largely aquatic lifestyle, such that many baseline indicators of health and condition are not well defined. Fifty known-age, adult seals (9-27 years, 24 males, 26 females) in McMurdo Sound were sampled for mass, total body fat, blubber depth and a suite of blood parameters (21 variables) to assess hydration state, nutritional plane, reproductive hormones (females only), organ function and immune status. Total body mass increased with age, whereas variation in blubber depth was best described by mass and/or sex, with an overall greater blubber thickness in female seals (p<0.001). Ten blood parameters showed a significant effect of one or more model variables, most prominently between the sexes. Serum chemistry suggested that females were better nourished and displayed lower indicators of acute stress compared to males. We noted limited age-related declines that might indicate impaired organ function. Ove...Continue Reading

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Fat Pad
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Blood Chemical Analysis
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