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Durham University

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Publication details for Dr Sean Twiss

Bishop, Amanda M., Stewart, James E., Pomeroy, Patrick & Twiss, Sean D. (2017). Intraseasonal temporal variation of reproductive effort for male grey seals. Animal Behaviour 134: 167-175.

Author(s) from Durham


Reproductive skew in polygynous mating systems leads to variation in mating strategies, or the tactics within strategies, adopted by individual males. For example, variation in the timing of reproductive effort might reflect trade-offs between maximizing access to receptive females and minimizing interactions with competitors. For capital breeding grey seals, Halichoerus grypus, male mating success has been positively linked to total duration of tenure, but without differentiation of intraseasonal changes in reproductive effort. The aims of this study were to identify tactics within the tenured male strategy based on the timing of social dominance as a metric of reproductive effort, and to compare mating success across identified tactics. Our results confirm that duration of stay on the colony explained the most variation in mating success, but effect strength was reduced for tenures longer than 10 days. Additionally, there was evidence that timing of reproductive effort within a breeding season also contributed to observed variation in mating success. Males that maximized their dominance score at or after the peak in female attendance achieved greater mating success, relative to those who were dominant earlier in the breeding season. Males who timed their reproductive effort earlier in the season still achieved some mating success, but it was reduced. Individuals' tactics were flexible across years, and we found no evidence to support the hypotheses that timing of reproductive effort before or after the peak in female attendance was used by smaller tenured males, or to avoid conflict. These results highlight that understanding temporal scheduling of individual reproductive effort within a breeding season, relative to the availability of resources, constraints of fasting and intermale competition, is a key aspect to consider when differentiating individual tactics in long-lived, capital polygynous breeders.