Mediterranean Monk Seal - Description - Reproduction

Reproduction

Very little is known of this seal's reproduction. Scientists have suggested they are polygynous, with males being very territorial where they mate with females. Although there is no breeding season, since births take place year round, there is a peak in October and November. This is also the time when caves are prone to wash out due to high surf or storm surge, which causes high mortality rates among monk seal pups, especially at the key Cabo Blanco colony. According to the IUCN species factsheet, "pup survival is low; just under 50% survive their first two months to the onset of their moult, and most mortalities occurred in the first two weeks. Survival of pups born from September to January is 29%. This very low survival rate is associated with mortality caused by severe storms, and high swells and tides, but impoverished genetic variability and inbreeding may also be involved. Pups born during the rest of the year had a survival rate of 71%".

In 2008, lactation was reported in an open beach, the first such record since 1945, which could suggest the seal could begin feeling increasingly safe to return to open beaches for breeding purposes in Cabo Blanco.

Pups make first contact with the water two weeks after their birth, and are weaned at around 18 weeks of age; females caring for pups will go off to feed for an average of nine hours. Most individuals are believed to reach maturity at four years of age. The gestation period lasts close to a year. However, it is believed to be common among monk seals of the Cabo Blanco colony to have a gestation period lasting slightly longer than a year.

Read more about this topic:  Mediterranean Monk Seal, Description

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