Coastal Restoration Trust of New Zealand

Coastal Dune Ecosystem Reference Database

Alternative mating tactics in the New Zealand fur seal (Arctocephalus forsteri): when non-territorial males are successful too Journal Paper

Caudron, A. K.; Negro, S. S.; Fowler, M.; Boren, L.; Poncin, P.; Robertson, B. C.; Gemmell, N. J.
Journal / Source
Australian Journal of Zoology
Publisher / Organisation
Arctocephalus forsteri, NZ fur seal
alternative tactics, fur seals, male mating strategy, pinnipeds, reproductive success
In polygynous mammals, the status of many males does not allow them to have a high social rank and theory predicts selection for alternative mating tactics. Alternative tactics were suggested to explain discrepancies between mating and paternity successes in several pinniped species. However, information on alternative tactics in fur seals is limited. Here, we focus on the polygynous New Zealand fur seal, Arctocephalus forsteri, predicting that competition for females is likely to cause a diversification of male mating tactics and that non-territorial tactics can yield reproductive success. We describe the behaviour of 38 males in a medium to large colony. Paternity success was assessed using CERVUS and PASOS, from a pool of 82 pups sampled at the study site and at neighbouring breeding areas. To see whether size is correlated with mating tactic, the length of 17 males was estimated using photogrammetry. Cluster analysis identified three male behavioural profiles: one corresponding to large territorial males and two illustrating alternative tactics employed by smaller non-territorial males. Of the 13 pups born at the study site that were assigned a father, eight were sired by three territorial males and five were sired by non-territorial males. Our study highlights that holding a territory is not a necessary condition for reproductive success in all otariids.