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Growth Rates of Vibrissae of Harbor Seals (Phoca vitulina) and Steller Sea Lions (Eumetopias jubatus)
Canadian Journal of Zoology
  • Amy Hirons, University of Alaska - Fairbanks
  • Donald M. Schell, University of Alaska - Fairbanks
  • David J. St. Aubin, Mystic Aquarium
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Growth rates of vibrissae (whiskers), which act as a temporal record of feeding in harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) and Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus), were estimated using 13C- and 15N-labeled glycine followed by stable-isotope analysis. The labeled glycine was incorporated into keratin and served as a temporal marker for growth-rate calculation. One captive harbor seal received two doses 147 days apart, while a second seal received one dose; vibrissae were analyzed after 86 and 154 days. The peak positions indicated that growth began in the fall, continued into spring, but ceased in June, with active growth rates of 0.33 mm/day. Two adult captive Steller sea lions each received two labeled doses during a 308-day period. After 427 days vibrissae in both sea lions showed two peaks corresponding to the markers; growth rates were calculated as 0.05–0.07 mm/day. Growth rates in captive juvenile and wild adult Steller sea lions, 0.10–0.17 mm/day, supported the assumption that major isotopic oscillations in vibrissae of wild sea lions were annual. The multiyear records imply that Steller sea lions retain their vibrissae; harbor seal vibrissae, in contrast, have periods of rapid growth and appear to be shed, at least in part, annually.

©2001 NRC Canada

Additional Comments
Supported by the Coastal Marine Institute of Minerals Management Service contract:14-35-0001-30661
Citation Information
Amy Hirons, Donald M. Schell and David J. St. Aubin. "Growth Rates of Vibrissae of Harbor Seals (Phoca vitulina) and Steller Sea Lions (Eumetopias jubatus)" Canadian Journal of Zoology Vol. 79 Iss. 6 (2001) p. 1053 - 1061 ISSN: 0008-4301
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