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Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc. 1993 Feb;68(1):1-79.

Growth in pinnipeds.

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Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.


This review presents summary figures of, and fits growth curves to, data on body lengths (as standard length, SL, whenever possible) of pinnipeds at ages estimated to O.I y. (1) Generalized von Bertalanffy (vB) growth curves are fitted to most data: Lx = L infinity (I - ea(x-x0)b, Lx is length at age x, x0 is the origin of the curve (here chosen a priori as time of initiation of embryonic growth), L infinity is asymptotic length, a (which is negative) determines rate of approach to the asymptote, and b influences the 'shape' of the approach. (2) No single monotonic growth equation suffices for growth in length, which is linear before birth and remains so during early life. The vB equation is only suitable to describe mean lengths of newborns, and animals one or more years old. (3) Also, for males of polygynous species, two functions are needed to account for accelerated growth at puberty. Generally a Gompertz equation is adequate for adult males of these species. (4) The fitted growth equations permit statistical comparisons of sizes and growth rates, as well as of individual variability (as growth-curve residuals), among populations and species. (5) For the following species (including different populations when available), the reliability of data is assessed and parameters of growth curves are presented (with sexes separated where significantly different): walrus, California and Steller sea lions, Antarctic, subantarctic and northern fur seals, Hawaiian monk seal, crabeater, Weddell and Leopard seals, southern and northern elephant seals, bearded, hooded, ringed, Baikal, Caspian, spotted, harbour, harp, ribbon and grey seals. (6) Some novel findings pertain to individual species as follows. Although the Pacific walrus is generally stated to be the larger subspecies, females from Hudson Bay and males from Foxe Basin, in the eastern Canadian Arctic, may be as long as those from the Bering Sea. Although female Weddell seals have been assumed to grow larger than males, there is no significant difference in growth curves fitted to the most complete data. Uniquely among populations examined, the relative variability (absolute growth curve residuals/predicted lengths) of male southern elephant seals is amplified with age. Among ringed seals from Svalbard, the eastern, western and high Canadian Arctic, and the Bering, Chukchi, Okhotsk, Barents and Baltic Seas, asymptotic sizes are larger among those that breed on land-fast ice rather than floes, and size may be more variable in more extreme Arctic environments. The Baikal seal is confirmed as the smallest species of pinniped.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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