Seasonal variability in otariid energetics: implications for the effects of predators on localized prey resources

Physiol Biochem Zool. Jul-Aug 2007;80(4):433-43. doi: 10.1086/518346. Epub 2007 May 7.


Otariids, like other wild mammals, contend with a wide variety of energetic demands across seasons. However, due to the cryptic behaviors of this marine group, few studies have been able to examine longitudinal energetic costs or the potential impact of these costs on seasonal or annual prey requirements. Here we evaluated the changes in energy demand and intake of female California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) during reproductive (n=2 sea lions) and nonreproductive (n=3) periods. Monthly measurements included resting metabolic rate, blood hormone levels, body condition (blubber thickness and body mass), and caloric intake for adult sea lions throughout molting, late pregnancy, lactation, and postweaning. We found that maintenance energy demands decreased from 32.0 to 23.1 MJ d(-1) before pupping, remaining stable at 19.4+/-0.6 MJ d(-1) during lactation and postweaning. Energy intake rates to meet these demands showed marked changes with activity level and the reproductive cycle, reaching a peak intake of 3.6 times baseline levels during lactation. Translating this into prey demands, we find that 20,000 reproductively active females on San Nicolas Island rookeries would maximally require 4,950 metric tons of Pacific whiting during a month of the breeding season. This localized impact is reduced significantly with postbreeding dispersal and demonstrates the importance of considering spatial and temporal factors driving the energetic requirements of predators when designing marine protected areas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basal Metabolism / physiology
  • Body Composition / physiology
  • Energy Intake / physiology
  • Estrogens / blood
  • Female
  • Lactation
  • Linear Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Predatory Behavior / physiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Progesterone / blood
  • Sea Lions / blood
  • Sea Lions / metabolism
  • Sea Lions / physiology*
  • Seasons


  • Estrogens
  • Progesterone