Time for a wee bit more info on males – if only for Amy who completed her thesis on male behaviour this last year, and now I working hard back in Alaska. The males here compete for access to females – their ultimate aim is to mate with as many females as possible. Which males have the upper hand in this competition? Well you might think it’s the physically largest males – but that’s not necessarily the case – size is not everything when it comes to being a male grey seal. Experience counts for a lot too – knowing when and how to approach a female! Many males that are clearly rather less experienced will approach females with very young pups – and generally receive flailing claws and gnashing teeth for their attentions!
More experienced males leave it till later to approach females, spending the rest of their time threatening other males, but mostly resting and conserving their energy! Females are only receptive to male approaches towards the end of lactation – about 16 days after giving birth to their pup.
Our previous work has shown that females can indeed express choice about who their mating partner is – females will act aggressively towards unwanted males, and show less, or no aggression towards other males. Despite males being physically much larger and more powerful than female grey seals, it seems that the males do not entirely control the mating system among grey seals!