[MARMAM] New publication: prolonged nursing in the Namibian Cape fur seals

Anna Osiecka ann.osiecka at gmail.com
Sat Jul 4 05:21:06 PDT 2020

Dear colleagues,

Me and my co-authors are happy to share our newest work on extended
maternal care in the Cape fur seals observed at the Cape Cross colony in

Anna N Osiecka, Jack Fearey, Tess Gridley, Simon Elwen, ‘Observation of
prolonged nursing in Cape fur seals (*Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus*) at
Cape Cross colony, Namibia’, African Zoology (2020)


Extended nursing periods have been observed in some pinniped species. Here,
we document multiple cases of such prolonged nursing in Cape fur seals in
Namibia. Over three separate visits to the Cape Cross breeding colony, we
observed five unusual nursing interactions. These included animals of
estimated age from one to over three years suckling on awake and permitting
females. One of these observations included two individuals (juvenile and
pup) suckling simultaneously. In three out of five cases, the female
sniffed the large suckling animal, and the lack of aggression suggested
mutual recognition. We suggest that the most likely scenario for these
observations is that the larger animals might be the mothers’ offspring
from the previous year maintaining contact over at least three years. Such
prolonged nursing may occur in cases where the year’s pup is not born, dies
or is outcompeted by older siblings, which can result in large energetic
advantages for the offspring, by maintaining a feeding relationship with
mothers over more than one year. We suggest that animals that extend
suckling over more than one year may increase their overall success,
although possibly inhibiting their mother’s pregnancy in a given year.
Under poorer conditions, investing more in an older calf may also be more
cost effective to the mother than risking a new pregnancy. However, further
detailed investigation is necessary to explain extended nursing in this
socially complex mammal.

You can contact me personally for a pdf copy, or find it here:

Kindest regards,

Anna N Osiecka
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