On sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island, we examined pup weaning mass of southern elephant seals in relation to human presence. Pup weaning mass was previously found to be positively associated with 1st-year survivorship. Weaned pups were weighed in a remote area, Middle Beach, and in an area of relatively high human presence, Isthmus East. The areas were reasonably similar in beach topography, wind and surf conditions, numbers of seals present per kilometre of coastline, and numbers of males and females present in harems. For a sub-sample of measured pups, data on the respective maternal size were collected using photogrammetry. Both male and female weaned pups on Middle Beach were significantly heavier than those on Isthmus East. Estimated length of mothers was significantly higher on Middle Beach. In proportion to their own size, mothers in both areas produced weaners of similar mass, indicating no direct effect of human disturbance on the efficiency of lactation. It remained unclear whether the area differences in maternal and pup size were due to natural or human-related factors.
Engelhard, G. H., van den Hoff, J., Broekman, M., Baarspul, A. N. J., Field, I., Burton, H. R., & Reijnders, P. J. H. (2001). Mass of weaned elephant seal pups in areas of low and high human presence. Polar Biology, 24(4), 244-251. https://doi.org/10.1007/s003000000204