Changing weather conditions as a result of climate change could lower the survival rate of Antarctic seal pups by changing their energy requirements, according to a new study published in the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology. Newborn seal pups split most of their energy between growth, learning and thermoregulation.
But windier and wetter conditions predicted for Antarctica will require seal pups to devote more of their energy to staying warm. This means less energy is available for growth and picking up survival skills, which is key to preparing for a future away from their mothers, writes LiveSciences’ Jennifer Welsh.
“Changes in prey availability and climate may lead pups to conserve energy by sacrificing the development of foraging skill or to wean at a lower mass or body condition, resulting in negative impacts on the ability to transition successfully to nutritional independence,” Birgitte I. McDonald, a graduate student at the University of California at Santa Cruz, said in a release.
Young seals are particularly vulnerable to higher wind chill and heat loss because they don’t yet have the protection of an adult coat.
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