Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Subordinate seals get sex lives thanks to climate change

15.12.2006
A team of scientists has shown that subordinate male grey seals are reaping the benefits of current climate change which has seen temperatures rise and rainfall levels fall over the past few years.

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
Further information:
http://www.durham.ac.uk

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht How does the loss of species alter ecosystems?
18.05.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Excess diesel emissions bring global health & environmental impacts
16.05.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Strathclyde-led research develops world's highest gain high-power laser amplifier

The world's highest gain high power laser amplifier - by many orders of magnitude - has been developed in research led at the University of Strathclyde.

The researchers demonstrated the feasibility of using plasma to amplify short laser pulses of picojoule-level energy up to 100 millijoules, which is a 'gain'...

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New insights into the ancestors of all complex life

29.05.2017 | Earth Sciences

New photocatalyst speeds up the conversion of carbon dioxide into chemical resources

29.05.2017 | Life Sciences

NASA's SDO sees partial eclipse in space

29.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>