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Durham University

Research & business

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Publication details for Dr Sean Twiss

Shuert, Courtney R., Pomeroy, Patrick P. & Twiss, Sean D. (2020). Coping styles in capital breeders modulate behavioural trade-offs in time allocation: assessing fine-scale activity budgets in lactating grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) using accelerometry and heart rate variability. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 74(1): 8.

Author(s) from Durham


Balancing time allocation among competing behaviours is an essential part of energy management for all animals. However, trade-offs in time allocation may vary according to the sex of the individual, their age, and even underlying physiology. During reproduction, higher energetic demands and constrained internal resources place greater demand on optimizing these trade-offs insofar that small adjustments in time-activity may lead to substantial effects on an individual’s limited energy budget. The most extreme case is found in animals that undergo capital breeding, where individuals fast for the duration of each reproductive episode. We investigated potential underlying drivers of time-activity and describe aspects of trade-offs in time-activity in a wild, capital breeding pinniped, the grey seal Halichoerus grypus, during the lactation period. For the first time, we were able to access full 24-h activity budgets across the core duration of lactation as well as characterize how aspects of stress-coping styles influence time allocation through the use of animal-borne accelerometers and heart rate monitors in situ. We found that there was a distinct trade-off in time activity between time spent Resting and Alert (vigilance). This trade-off varied with the pup’s development, date, and maternal stress-coping style as indicated by a measure of heart rate variability, rMSSD. In contrast, time spent Presenting/Nursing did not vary across the duration of lactation given the variables tested. We suggest that while mothers balance time spent conserving resources (Resting) against time expending energy (Alert), they are also influenced by the inherent physiological drivers of stress-coping styles.