We could wow you with some spectacular behaviours, but for starters, our first ‘behaviour of the day’ is going to be plain, simple, Resting! ‘How boring is that’ I hear you cry – well maybe, but there is good reason to pay a lot of attention to resting behaviour, in any animal, not just grey seals, though its particularly important for our grey seals during the breeding season.
First our formal definition from our ethogram:
Resting: Rest (REST) – seal is motionless, head down on ground, eyes closed. Can be situated in any rotational axis (e.g. on back or side), however with no pup interaction .
OK, resting is pretty straightforward to define. But why should we be interested in it?
First, breeding grey seals are champion ‘resters’; during the breeding season, females can rest 60-70% of their time while on the colony. Males typically out do the females, resting up to 80-90% of their time!! So, resting is a major part of the grey seal’s activity budget (i.e. how they partition their time among the various different behaviours they engage in while here at the breeding colony). For that reason alone, its worth noting, but it is particularly important for species like the grey seal, which are known as ‘capital‘ breeders. That means they stock up on energy reserves prior to a breeding season (for the seals this is done while feeding out at sea), and then fast during the breeding period – that is they do not feed during this time, and have to rely solely on the energy stores they have built up (in the form of a thick layer of blubber) to fuel all their activity on the colony. For males this is important, as the best strategy for a male to achieve the most matings during the breeding season is to stay on the colony as long as possible. If a male ‘spends’ his energy too quickly, then he limits how long he can remain on the colony before having to go back to sea to feed. For females, the equation is more complex – they rely on their blubber reserves not only to fuel their own activity, but also to provision their pups via the fat rich milk they provide.
So, resting IS critical, it is how grey seals, and other animals (including humans!), conserve their energy for when they really need it! This need to conserve their limited energy supplies during the breeding season is one of the major driving forces behind the behaviour patterns we observe in both males and females.