Scientists find seal mums vary in how they bring up their pups

1:00am Tuesday 20th November 2012

By Barry Nelson

RISK-TAKING grey seals mums can give their pup a real advantage, according to scientists.

Researchers from Durham University and St Andrews University found that some seal mothers are flexible in the parenting style they adopt and 'gamble' on the outcome of their actions, whilst other play it safe and steady.

The study is the first to demonstrate how variation in personality traits in large marine mammals in the wild can persist, rather than a single, successful, personality type dominating the population.

Lead author, Dr Sean Twiss, from the school of Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Durham University, said: “Some mums have a very fixed way of caring for their pups, come what may, whilst others are more flexible.

“Seals that ‘gamble’ and try to fit their behaviour to their immediate surroundings can do very well, if they get it right.

"However, being flexible can be risky - a mum might ‘mis-judge’ the conditions and fail to match her behaviour to the prevailing conditions."

The scientists observed seals during the breeding season over two years.

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