Scientia Marina, Vol 74, No 3 (2010)

Change in the foraging strategy of female South American sea lions (Carnivora: Pinnipedia) after parturition

Massimiliano Drago, Luís Cardona, Enrique A. Crespo, Néstor García, Santiago Ameghino, Alex Aguilar



This study tests the hypothesis that female South American sea lions shift from off-shore, pelagic prey to coastal, benthic prey after parturition in order to reduce the foraging trip duration and hence the time pups remain unattended on the beach during early lactation. The δ13C and δ15N values of the serum and blood cells of 26 South American sea lion suckling pups from northern Patagonia were used to track the dietary changes of their mothers from late pregnancy to early lactation, after correction for differential isotopic fractionation between tissues. Primary producers and potential prey species were also analysed to establish a baseline for interpreting the stable isotope concentration of serum and blood cells. Isotopic ratios revealed a generalized increase in the consumption of coastal-benthic prey after parturition. Such a generalized post-partum shift will allow females to spend more time on land and look after their pups. The effects of this foraging strategy on the nutritional quality of the female’s diet are discussed.


South American sea lion; diet; feeding strategy; suckling pup; lactating females; Otaria flavescens; stable isotopes; Bayesian mixing models

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