Research published recently in the Royal Society’s Biology Letters by Dr Sean Twiss, a lecturer in the school of Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Durham University and colleagues at the University of St Andrews, has shown that mating patterns within the grey seal colony on the remote Scottish Island of North Rona have altered dramatically as a result of higher temperatures and lower rainfall, leading to a greater genetic diversity within the population.
Warmer and drier autumns have led to a reduction in pools of rainwater which the female seals require to maintain their body temperature and provide them with a source of drinking water. As a result the females, who remain loyal to one breeding site, must travel further to access the vital resource for themselves and their pups, which removes them from the watchful eye of the dominant males and allows subordinate males to mate with them.
Dr Twiss said: “Grey seals are typically polygamous, with the more dominant males mating with approximately ten to fifteen females which they guard from other males within their territory. These males’ ability to dominate is easy when rainwater pools are abundant and females cluster in a small geographical area, but during dry seasons the area in which the females are located becomes too big and they can no longer successfully keep an eye on them all!
“The females must travel further to access water before returning to nurse their pups, which remain at the original pupping location. The increased movement amongst the females allows the weaker males to mate and results in more males contributing genetically to the next generation.”
During the nine year study, Twiss and his colleagues recorded a 61% increase in the number of males contributing to the genetic pool – from 23 males in the wettest years to 37 in the driest, from a total number of around 100 males present each year.
Grey seals are annual breeders with a discrete and predictable breeding season which in the UK sees them gather on remote island sites for 18 days during October and November. During this time each female gives birth to a pup before mating again on approximately day sixteen after which they return to the sea.
This autumnal breeding season would normally be wet and windy but between 1996 and 2004 Twiss and his colleagues recorded unusually dry starts to some seasons. This is in-keeping with predictions made by climatologists who state that global warming will make rainfall more irregular.
Dr Twiss continued: “Much current research is focusing on the geographical movement of animals as a result of climate change. What we are interested in finding out is what impact climate change has on the behaviour of animals – how it effects their social systems including mating patterns.
“The effect of climatic variation on temperature and rainfall has wide-spread implications for many species as there are very few animal populations whose mating patterns and levels of polygamy are not intimately linked to resource distribution. These findings show that climate change, whilst endangering many species could also help to increase the genetic diversity of some species, giving a leg up (or over!) to males who normally wouldn’t be so successful.”
Media and Public Affairs Team | alfa
Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel
Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.
The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...
Cardiovascular tissue engineering aims to treat heart disease with prostheses that grow and regenerate. Now, researchers from the University of Zurich, the Technical University Eindhoven and the Charité Berlin have successfully implanted regenerative heart valves, designed with the aid of computer simulations, into sheep for the first time.
Producing living tissue or organs based on human cells is one of the main research fields in regenerative medicine. Tissue engineering, which involves growing...
A team of scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg investigated optically-induced superconductivity in the alkali-doped fulleride K3C60under high external pressures. This study allowed, on one hand, to uniquely assess the nature of the transient state as a superconducting phase. In addition, it unveiled the possibility to induce superconductivity in K3C60 at temperatures far above the -170 degrees Celsius hypothesized previously, and rather all the way to room temperature. The paper by Cantaluppi et al has been published in Nature Physics.
Unlike ordinary metals, superconductors have the unique capability of transporting electrical currents without any loss. Nowadays, their technological...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
18.05.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
18.05.2018 | Information Technology
18.05.2018 | Information Technology