Just add milk

As the days get shorter and the air gets colder, we’ve begun to notice that what were once bare dunes and expanses of beach are now covered in fluffy, white, pups. After another two births today our total at each site is around 20 pups (with a colony total of over 200!!).

One of the reasons the site we are at is so interesting is because it is an expanding colony.  In 2000 there were only a total of roughly 600 pups born on the colony, but last year the total was 1400! That is quite a large increase in numbers in just a little over a decade and it appears that the trend is still increasing.

We are also finally seeing some older pups within the study areas. As mentioned before, grey seal pups stay with their mum for only 15-18 days. This means that they will go from this size:

A stage ‘1’ pup–only a few days old.

To this:

 

A stage ‘3’ pup. Stage ‘4’ is when they start to lose their white coats and the final stage, ‘5’ is fully weaned.

in just a little over two weeks. The short period till weaning is when the pups will quadruple in size solely from their mum’s fat-rich milk. While grey seals are certainly impressive with their 15-18 days, the record is held by hooded seals, whose pups have the same increase in mass and wean after only FOUR days!!

None of the field team is investigating pups this year, but past projects have looked into pup personalities, mothering types and even the importance of play behaviours. So while these guys are pretty cute to watch, there are plenty of fascinating questions surrounding their behavioural ecology we can’t wait to tackle as well!

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