The influence of prey availability on behavioral decisions and reproductive success of a central-place forager during lactation
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The influence of prey availability on behavioral decisions and reproductive success of a central-place forager during lactation

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  • Journal Title:
    Journal of Theoretical Biology
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    Marine central-place foragers are increasingly faced with altered prey landscapes, necessitating predictions of the impact of such changes on behavior, reproductive success, and population dynamics. We used state-dependent behavioral life history theory implemented via Stochastic Dynamic Programming (SDP) to explore the influence of changes in prey distribution and energy gain from foraging on the behavior and reproductive success of a central place forager during lactation. Our work is motivated by northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) because of the ongoing population decline of the Eastern Pacific stock and projected declines in biomass of walleye pollock (Gadus chalcogrammus), a key fur seal prey species in the eastern Bering Sea. We also explored how changes in female and pup metabolic rates, body size, and lactation duration affected model output to provide insight into traits that might experience selective pressure in response to reductions in prey availability. Simulated females adopted a central-place foraging strategy after an initial extended period spent on land (4.7–8.3 days). Trip durations increased as the high energy prey patch moved farther from land or when the energy gain from foraging decreased. Increases in trip duration adversely affected pup growth rates and wean mass despite attempts to compensate by increasing land durations. Metabolic rate changes had the largest impacts on pup wean mass, with reductions in a pup’s metabolic rate allowing females to successfully forage at distances of 600+ km from land for up to 15+ days. Our results indicate that without physiological adaptations, a rookery is unlikely to be viable if the primary foraging grounds are 400 km or farther from the rookery. To achieve pup growth rates characteristic of a population experiencing rapid growth, model results indicate the primary foraging grounds need to be <150 km from the rookery.
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    Journal of Theoretical Biology, 560, 111392
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    Accepted Manuscript
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