[MARMAM] New article: Vibrissal growth parameters of southern elephant seals Mirounga leonina

Nico Lubcker nlubcker at zoology.up.ac.za
Wed Jan 4 23:35:16 PST 2017

Dear colleagues,

My co-authors and I would like to share with you our work recently
published in Marine Ecology Progress Series:

Lübcker N, Condit R, Beltran RS, de Bruyn PJN, Bester MN. 2016. Vibrissal
growth parameters of southern elephant seals Mirounga leonina: obtaining
fine-scale, time-based stable isotope data. Marine Ecology Progress Series
559: 243-255. doi: 10.3354/meps11899.

Article available at http://www.int-res.com/abstracts/meps/v559/p243-255/

ABSTRACT: Stable isotopes provide a powerful, indirect approach to assess
the trophic ecology of individuals on a spatial and temporally integrated
basis (especially when combined with telemetry). However, using stable
isotopes requires accurate, species-specific quantification of the period
of biomolecule deposition in the sampled tissue. Sequentially sampled
vibrissae (whiskers) provide a chronology of biogeochemical data, although
knowledge of vibrissal growth is required for temporal interpretations. We
sampled vibrissae from southern elephant seals Mirounga leonina (hereafter
SES) at Marion Island, southern Indian Ocean, to address the following
aims: (1) define the prevalence and timing of their vibrissal replacement,
(2) determine the vibrissal regrowth rate and temporal resolution of
isotopic data captured along the length of sequentially sampled vibrissae,
and (3) explore assumptions regarding their vibrissal growth. Contrary to
the previously described asynchronous vibrissal shedding pattern of SES,
71.1% of individuals displayed vibrissal shedding during the annual pelage
moult. Furthermore, vibrissal growth ceased once the asymptotic length was
reached, and the vibrissae were retained before being replaced. Vibrissae
with known growth histories were resampled at multiple known intervals to
control for unknown growth starting dates. Vibrissae followed a von
Bertalanffy growth function as the growth rate decreased near the
asymptotic length. The resolution of the isotopic data obtainable per 2 mm
section ranged from 3.5 d at the vibrissal tip to >40 d at the base. Using
these defined growth rates and shedding patterns, researchers can
prudently apply timestamps to stable isotope values along vibrissae.


Nico Lubcker
nlubcker at zoology.up.ac.za
PhD Zoology Candidate
Mammal Research Institute
Department of Zoology and Entomology
University of Pretoria
South Africa

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