Saturday, 26 November 2011

Grey seal personalities affect pups

Grey seals have different types of personality that affect the extent to which they guard and care for their young, according to new research.

Researchers from the universities of St Andrews and Durham found seal mothers were often unpredictable and adopted a wide variation of mothering styles.

Some were attentive to their pups while others were not, the experts found.

The study shows, for the first time, the extent of personality differences in marine mammals in the wild.

It shows how individual animals have differing behavioural styles, and how they may be limited in their ability to respond to different environments.

The researchers said the findings could have benefits for future conservation policy, habitat management and reveals new information about the process of evolution.

Researchers observed seals on the Scottish island of North Rona during the breeding season between September and November over a two-year period.
The team targeted the animals in their natural habitat to analyse individual variation and consistency in behavioural response.

Using a remote controlled vehicle with a fitted video camera, the researchers set up tests to assess how seals reacted to external stimuli and potential threats, including wolf calls played from the vehicle.

The seals' reactions ranged from disinterested to aggressive.

The team checked the responses of seal mothers by recording the number of pup checks made (where the mother raises her head off the ground and moves it in the direction of her young to check their well-being) during a specific time period.

Individual patterns on their fur meant the researchers could identify the seals over two years

Read more here ...

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