Aquatic mating in pinnipeds: a review

Abstract: The goals of this review are to summarize existing information available on aquatic mating strategies in pinnipeds. Considerable advances in knowledge concerning the reproductive strategies of aquatic mating pinnipeds have been made over recent years. Studies have showed that aquatic mating pinnipeds exhibit a range of evolutionary adaptations in their reproductive strategies that differ considerably from those of land-breeding species. However, clear gaps still exist, particularly amongst ice-breeding species. This review introduces the topic and then is divided into 1) techniques for studying aquatic mating pinnipeds, of which acoustic, telemetry, and genetic technologies are discussed, 2) evolutionary consequences of lactation and whelping habitat, 3) male reproductive strategies and, 4) conclusions and future research directions. Based on current evidence, aquatic-mating species are thought to maintain aquatic display areas using vocal and dive displays for the purpose of male–male competition and likely for the attractioon of females. Between species, mating behaviour ranges from lek mating, female defense polygyny, to the use of alternative mating tactics. Observed variations within species in mating behaviour appear to be linked to the influences of local habitat type and changes in female behaviour. Therefore, it is appropriate to reassess our knowledge concerning aquatic breeders and reflect how this alters the development of theories on the evolution of pinniped reproductive strategies.


Document Type: Research article

Pages: 214-226

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