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Metabolic heat loss in southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) differs with stage of moult and between habitats

Paterson, William D.; Chaise, Laureline L.; McKnight, Chris; Currie, John I.; Thompson, Dave; Ancel, Andr�; Gilbert, Caroline; McCafferty, Dominic J.


William D. Paterson

Laureline L. Chaise

Chris McKnight

Dave Thompson

Andr� Ancel

Caroline Gilbert

Dominic J. McCafferty


The moult in southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) represents an especially energetically demanding period during which seals must maintain high skin temperature to facilitate complete replacement of body fur and upper dermis. In this study, heat flux from the body surface was measured on 18 moulting southern elephant seals to estimate metabolic heat loss in three different habitats (beach, wallow and vegetation). Temperature data loggers were also deployed on 10 southern elephant seals to monitor skin surface temperature. On average, heat loss of animals on the beach was greater than in wallows or vegetation, and greater in wallows than in vegetation. Heat loss across all habitats during the moult equated to 1.8 x resting metabolic rate (RMR). The greatest heat loss of animals was recorded in the beach habitat during the late moult, that represented 2.3 x RMR. Mass loss was 3.6 ± 0.3 kg day-1, resulting in changes in body condition as the moult progressed. As body condition declined, skin surface temperature also decreased, suggesting that as animals approached the end of the moult blood flow to the skin surface was no longer required for hair growth.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 31, 2021
Online Publication Date Jan 5, 2022
Publication Date 2022-02
Deposit Date Jan 7, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jan 6, 2023
Journal Journal of Thermal Biology
Print ISSN 0306-4565
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 104
Article Number 103183
Keywords Mirounga leonina, Marine mammals, Pinnipeds, Heat loss, Skin temperature, Moult, Thermoregulation
Public URL


Metabolic Heat Loss In Southern Elephant Seals (Mirounga Leonina) Differs With Stage Of Moult And Between Habitats (2.6 Mb)


Copyright Statement
Accepted version licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) license.

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