Project Information
Collaborative Research: Physiological and Genetic Correlates of Reproductive Success in High- versus Low-Quality Weddell seals
Start Date:
End Date:
Within any wild animal population there is substantial heterogeneity in reproductive rates and animal fitness. Not all individuals contribute to the population equally; some are able to produce more offspring than others and thus are considered to be of higher quality. This study aims to distinguish which physiological mechanisms (energy dynamics, aerobic capacity, and fertility) and underlying genetic factors make some Weddell seal females particularly successful at producing pups year after year, while others produce far fewer pups than the population average. In this project, an Organismal Energetics approach will identify key differences between high- and low-quality females in how they balance current and future reproductive success by tracking lactation costs, midsummer foraging success and pregnancy rates, and overwinter foraging patterns and live births the next year. Repeated sampling of individuals' physiological status (body composition, endocrinology, ovulation and pregnancy timing), will be paired with a whole-genome sequencing study. The second component of this study uses a Genome to Phenome approach to better understand how genetic differences between high- and low-quality females directly correspond to functional differences in transcription, translation, and ultimately phenotype. This component will contribute to the functional analysis and annotation of the Weddell seal genome. In combination, this project will make strides towards distinguishing the roles that plastic (physiological, behavioral) and fixed (genetic) factors play in complex, multifaceted traits such as fitness in a long-lived wild mammal. The project partners with established programs to implement extensive educational and outreach activities that will ensure wide dissemination to educators, students, and the public. It will contribute to a marine mammal exhibit at the Pink Palace Museum, and a PolarTREC science educator will participate in field work in Antarctica.
Person Role
Shero, Michelle Investigator and contact
Hindle, Allyson Co-Investigator
Burns, Jennifer Co-Investigator
Briggs, Brandon Co-Investigator
Antarctic Organisms and Ecosystems Award # 1853377
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Data Management Plan
None in the Database
Product Level:
0 (raw data)
Repository Title (link) Format(s) Status
USAP-DC Weddell seal iron dynamics and oxygen stores across lactation None exists
  1. Iron mobilization during lactation reduces oxygen stores in a diving mammal (doi:10.1038/s41467-022-31863-7)

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