Really? – Energy requirements make Antarctic fur seal pups vulnerable to climate change

From the University of Chicago Press Journals, a bizarre claim that less than 1C of warming globally in the last century, and essentially no change at all in Antarctica, will somehow change the weather in Antarctica and make it harder for seal pups to survive. Interestingly though, Livingston Island isn’t even part of the Antarctic continent. it is between the northernmost tip of the  Antarctic peninsula and Tierra Del Fuego at the southernmost tip of South America. That puts it smack dab in the middle of ocean currents and weather patterns.

On Livingston Island, there is Ferraz Station, operated by Brazil, and it has a weather station.

The base is rather small:

And the temperature data from Ferraz station, looks like this:

It is a short record, essentially flat, so temperature certainly doesn’t seem to be an issue, so we are left with model predictions, and no actual data to support “climate change” on Livingston Island. Here’s the claim in the press release, with the usual collection of weasel words of “climate models predict”, “could cause”, “If climate change models are correct…”, and “this may influence”.

Energy requirements make Antarctic fur seal pups vulnerable to climate change

A new study suggests that climate change could pose a risk for Antarctic fur seals in their first few months of life.

The study, published in the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, found that changing weather conditions can impact the metabolic rates of fur seal pups. Climate models predict windier and wetter conditions in Antarctica in the coming years, and that could cause young seals to assign more energy to thermoregulation, leaving less available for growth and development.

For their study, a team of scientists led by Dr. Birgitte McDonald (University of University of California, Santa Cruz) gathered data from 48 young seals on Livingston Island, just off the Antarctic Peninsula, to find out how much energy pups get from their mothers and how they use it.

“Energy budgets are important if we are to understand how individuals interact with their environment,” McDonald said. “In juvenile animals we need to know how they allocate energy towards growth, energy storage, maintenance including thermoregulation, and development of foraging skills to facilitate a successful transition to independence.”

The team measured milk energy intake, field metabolic rate, and growth rate over three developmental periods during in the seals’ first four months of life, when they are completely dependent on mother’s milk. The research found that in newborn pups, around 60 percent of the milk energy they receive from their mothers goes to growth. But as the pups get older and their mothers begin leaving them behind periodically to go on foraging trips, that percentage begins to fall. By the age of one month, pups only have about 25 percent of their energy available for growth.

As expected, the researchers found that the biggest predictor of a pup’s growth rate was the amount of milk they ingested, showing just how important maternal investment is when growing up in such harsh conditions. But other factors were also important in determining a pup’s energy throughput, including the pup’s size and condition at birth and environmental factors like weather.

“If climate change models are correct and the Antarctic Peninsula gets windier and wetter weather, this may influence how much energy is available for growth,” McDonald said. “Changes in prey availability and climate may lead pups to conserve energy by sacrificing the development of foraging skill or to wean at a lower mass or body condition, resulting in negative impacts on the ability to transition successfully to nutritional independence.”

McDonald hopes the research will lead to better predictions about how a changing environment may ultimately affect young seals and seal populations.

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Birgitte I. McDonald, Michael E. Goebel, Daniel E. Crocker, Daniel P. Costa, “Biological and Environmental Drivers of Energy Allocation in a Dependent Mammal, the Antarctic Fur Seal Pup.” Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 85:2 (March/April 2012).

Physiological and Biochemical Zoology primarily publishes original research papers in animal physiology and biochemistry with a specific emphasis on studies that address the ecological and/or evolutionary aspects of physiological and biochemical mechanisms.

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dp

Obviously dead seal pups are the newest proxy for CAGW and other catastrophic yet to be named stuff. This is the greatest revelation since the miracle bristle cone tree and upside down mud deposits. As my frustrated daughter used to write when doing math proofs in high school – “it’s obvious!”

Ray Boorman

Yeah, sure! The Antarctic is going to get windier if it warms a fraction? I seem to remember someone saying that it is already pretty windy down Antarctica way. Have these researchers not heard of the “furious fifties”? Anthony’s screen shot shows the latitude of Livingston Island is 58 degrees.

Tom E

Apparently the Santa Cruz team which is far left by nature never considered that seals have been around for 1000’s of years and survived many climate changes. Pretty sure they will adapt to the next one whatever it is. Just another global warming press release paid for by stimulus dollars or higher tuition.

Er, judging by the position of Livingston Island on the Antarctic Shelf Margin, technically it is a part of the Antarctic Continental mass, perhaps as an accreted terrane. But I digress. To think that 1 puny degree of temperature variation in such a harsh place would make anything but a positive difference is, well, loony.

Dr. Dave

Take a gander at Ms. McDonald’s CV. I’m underwhelmed.
http://bio.research.ucsc.edu/people/costa/people/CV_mcdonald.pdf

Goldie

Oh come on Anthony its obvious – If there were any climate change in this location (which there isn’t) then there might be a risk to the pups (or not). More budding AGW experts on the way.

Mike McMillan

This is serious. A lack of fur seal pups will have an impact on the endangered polar bear population.
REPLY: wrong hemisphere

Sounds to me like a completely useless study with absolutely no useful or interesting results, so they tacked on a ‘climate change’ perspective to make it valid.

Bulaman

Didn’t half that place burn down recently? Can’t do much to the carbon balance in the anarctic..

Andrew

In and of itself, the study’s methods and conclusions are uncontroversial. But yet more evidence of how the long arm of government, by controlling the flow of money, keeps the “consensus” on-script for such a relatively immature field of science..
http://www.australianclimatemadness.com/2012/03/essential-reading-dr-david-evans-climate-coup/

Jeef

I cannot believe rubbish like this is published unchallenged I know I am smarter than most but surely most will spot this for the crock it is?

Patrick Davis

“The study, published in the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, found that changing weather conditions can impact the metabolic rates of fur seal pups. Climate models predict…”
Using my Airfix model, I predict this is BS.

Jeff

University of California, Santa Cruz….that says it all – agenda-based study results.
Speaking of results, do they actually have cases (i.e. evidence) of young pups
actually weaining earlier or sacrificing foraging skill? Seems the only “evidence”
for this is in their models, a sort of hiding the (non-)decline in the young pups’ well-being.
Of course this will require more funding for repeated junkets, er, studies to
prop up the supposed results….and this at a time when California’s universities
are in dire need of money for normal operations…

According to Brenda Hall’s research, elephant seals were breeding in the Ross Sea area a thousand years ago. It’s too cold for that these days. The closest they breed is on Macquarie Island. Even though it was much warmer than today, the Ross ice shelf appears to have remained intact.
I suspect the Southern fur seals are too illiterate to appreciate the nuances of computer projections and consequently won’t give a fiddler’s fart for this research.

John

Wouldn’t a 1 degree temperature rise lead to somewhat lower thermoregulation requirements?

Truthseeker

My turn for a pendant post.
“harder for deal pups to survive. ”
I am pretty sure you meant seal pups.

P.F.

Arctocephalus (including Antarctic fur seals) is a very climatic-tolerant genus, with species all over various islands in the eastern Pacific, South America, the Antarctic Convergence, South Africa, and Australia/New Zealand, from the Farallones (off Northern California) to Guadalupe (off central Mexico) to the Galapagos and south to the Antarctic. There is even a sub-Antarctic fur seal (A. tropicalis). It is the only otariid pinniped genus to cross the equator. The speciation of the genus is fairly recent as well. That speciation is a likely a product of the Pleistocene climate oscillations. A degree or two in either direction now won’t matter much to the genus or the species (Arctocephalus gazella).
I believe this report is only playing to the audience expecting AGW stuff. Marine Mammal Science should have been the journal of choice for this. I wonder if the SMM/MMS kicked it.

Kozlowski

Dr. Dave says:
March 21, 2012 at 11:10 pm
Take a gander at Ms. McDonald’s CV. I’m underwhelmed.
http://bio.research.ucsc.edu/people/costa/people/CV_mcdonald.pdf
Her CV was interesting to read. It looks like she does a great deal of field work. At least she is doing actual work in the field and getting direct observational data. Although the conclusions that are reached do seem a bit farfetched. More like an excuse to continue observation and not something they actually believe.

Andrew

To anyone who might be interested: at the Australian Climate Madness site -presently listing Dr David Evan’s excellent essays (Climate Coup – The Science; Climate Coup – The Politics: see the link in my comment above) I suggested that readers might also be interested in following a link to Martin Durkin’s site (he of: ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle’) and his excellent essays on ‘GREENS and the lessons from history’ (2 vols) which are freely available to read at his site. Here is that link:
http://www.martindurkin.com/blogs/greens-warning-history-volume-one

Richard111

As Tom E above points out, the seals have adapted to past climate changes.
I very much doubt homo sapiens sapiens is capable of adapting to any climate change at all.

Perry

Anthony,
I admire your restraint in guiding Mike McMillan to the knowledge that Polar bears live in the Arctic, which is up north and the fur seals under discussion are located on an island just off the Antarctic continent down south. I’d have deleted his comment to save his blushes.
However, upon reflection, MM shows a similar grasp of the facts of reality as a certain other MM we know about! Is it possible we have we had a visitation from the Ig Nobel one?
http://improbable.com/ig/winners/
Regards,
Perry

Alan Fields

Thanks for the CV Dr. Dave – She has never done a days work in her life. As my friend Mr. Ng would say ” It’s a road of borrocks”

Man Bearpig

This is serious. A lack of fur seal pups will have an impact on the endangered polar bear population.
REPLY: wrong hemisphere
Are you sure?

Roy

There was recently a major fire resulting in a loss of life at the Ferraz base: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-17168526.
The loss of life and property is deeply regretted, so one would have hoped that the science would be more obviously worth the sacrifice.

Quick fact check: One of the breeding grounds of antarctic fur seal is Macquarie Island (AU). Annual population growth rate is 13%(!) there, which is clearly unsustainable, but shows the species is well adapted to environmental conditions there.
Now, Macquarie Island is located 54.5 S, some 900 km farther North from Antarctica than Livingston Island, therefore its annual average temperature is about 7.5°C warmer (4.8°C vs. -2.7°C. It also gets 20% more precipitation (960 mm vs. 800 mm per annum) and is more windy (avg. wind speed 30 km/h vs. 15 km/h, wind gusts 140 km/h vs 110 km/h).
I should really ask, what are these folks talking about? More importantly, what were reviewers doing? Have editors chosen them based on their political stance as opposed to their familiarity with the habitat range of the species in question?
http://www.antarctica.gov.au/living-and-working/stations/macquarie-island/macquarie-is-science/fur-seals-on-macquarie-island

Galane

A couple of days ago The Weather Channel had a “former skeptic” meteorologist on talking about how he came to the conclusion that global warming is real.
Translation, he was likely threatened with losing his job if he didn’t bow to the CAGW church.

Shevva

@Kozlowski, Yep they just needed the CAGW grant to carry on there studies, I think anyone in the field will realise this is just political drivel, it’s the modern day politics of being a field scientist as soon as you get back to the real world the money men are on you straight away on how it affects CAGW, I suppose you could ask why take the CAGW money but I guess the weighting for grants in modern research is probably heavily in the CAGW direction.
My new title for these times is The Post Modern Dark Ages. But that’s just me.

Byron

C`mon ,it`s obvious . The existance of fur seals is a hoax perpetrated by big oil as the last fur seal died from heatstroke during the Eemian which was caused by modern fossil fuel use (o:

Three years ago, the meme was that global warming would result in additional rainfall on Livingston, thereby rendering the drenched pups more susceptible to pneumonia induced by the frigid blasts of Antarctic winds.
I think that argument fell by the wayside when someone pointed out to the hand-wringers that
1. seals are pretty much waterproof to begin with and
2. since they don’t routinely die of pneumonia when they get wet in sub-zero temperatures, why would they catch pneumonia if it was *warmer*?

Scottish Sceptic

This kind of research is the antithesis of real science. Predicting what may happen if something happens according to models etc. could as equally be applied to fashion, politics,
I was going to say cooking and economics, but in comparison those are far more scientific than this kind of rubbish. Researchers involved in this kind of carp should be chucked out of science. But no doubt they are being considered for a nobel prize … for their contribution to voodoo non-science.

Peter Plail

But …… recent research has shown that increased CO2 produces fatter people, and presumably the same will apply to all mammals including seals. The seals will get an even better start to life and will be able to cope with the rigours of increased temperatures even better. /sarc off

novareason

Mike McMillan says:
March 21, 2012 at 11:13 pm
This is serious. A lack of fur seal pups will have an impact on the endangered polar bear population.
REPLY: wrong hemisphere
_____________________________________________________
I still fully expect this study to be published by some idiot scientists somewhere, based off of a computer model now. As a bonus, I really hope the author works in how declining penguin populations also threaten the poley bears fragile ecosystem in their “robust model”.

Ian H

The reasons for this have probably more to do with the cuteness quotient of seal pups than anything to do with the actual climate. I suspect we will soon see a veritable parade of cute cuddly creatures all of whom are apparently somehow unusually vulnerable to climate.

Adam Gallon

Richard111 says:
March 22, 2012 at 12:44 am
As Tom E above points out, the seals have adapted to past climate changes.
I very much doubt homo sapiens sapiens is capable of adapting to any climate change at all.
Hmm, now is the late King aware that mankind lives in a range of climatic regions, from the Polar tundra, through to tropical rainforest?

Richards in Vancouver

To Mike McMillan at 11:13
It’s too late, Mike. The Antarctic Polar Bear is already extinct. CAGW, of course.

H.R.

“If climate change models are correct and the Antarctic Peninsula gets windier and wetter weather, this may influence how much energy is available for growth,” McDonald said
Right there is your problem, and McDonald still went on to include “may influence,” which leaves the possibility that it ‘may not influence.’
I think the abstract should read, “Random thoughts and wild-@$$ speculations on […]”
Also:
@Dr. Dave.
I’m with Kozwalski on the CV. Looks like she’s done a lot of field work and that’s a good thing. Doesn’t seem adept yet at wild-@$$ speculation, but that will come with experience.

Man Bearpig

And I thought it was those men with big clubs that were killing the seal pups, but it turns out it was global warming all along ?

Corey S.

“make it harder for deal pups to survive.”
Shouldn’t it be ‘seal pups’?
[Done. Thank you, Robt]

R. de Haan

Anthony, small typing error
“and essentially no change at all in Antarctica, will somehow change the weather in Antarctica and make it harder for deal pups to survive”. deal pups = seal pups

Bloke down the pub

How much was the pup’s growth interupted by nosey scientists disturbing the neighbourhood?

There are no polar bears in the southern hemisphere. From this we may draw the following conclusions:
Itz happening already!
Itz worse than we thought!
Polar bears are already extinct in the southern hemisphere!
Seal pups in Antarctica are a proxy for global climate change! They are just as accurate as trees in Siberia!
Polar bear populations in the northern hemisphere are endangered, everyone knows that just because their population has quadrupled it doesn’t mean they aren’t going extinct.
THEREFORE it is obvious that seal pup viability in this study is in fact related to polar bear endangerment.
From the above, my conclusion is that the original statement by Mike McMillan has merit commensurate with the quality of the study cited, the accepted logical standards for science in matters regarding climate, and the heavy dose of sarcasm that was clearly intended.

Alan the Brit

For their study, a team of scientists led by Dr. Birgitte McDonald (University of University of California, Santa Cruz) gathered data from 48 young seals on Livingston Island, just off the Antarctic Peninsula, to find out how much energy pups get from their mothers and how they use it.
Is it worth an FOI request to see a copy of the questionaire they put to these seal pups? Or did they just talk to the seals’ mothers? I do hope they asked the parents’ permission before they spoke to the youngsters. 🙂

KNR

Once again we are show that the AGW scare bucket for ‘research’ funding is still deep and well filled. There really should be a prize for ‘the most tenuous link to AGW in a pace of research’ or one for the ‘AGW research worth is less than the words that make up its content.’
The only trouble would be there be so many canidates .

A Scientist

Used to be a standing joke amongst us pure scientists about starting a Journal of Wild Speculation and Hand Waving (JWSHW). Looks like someone must have thought we were serious!

I think one reason why it is popular with climatologists to study arctic and antarctic areas is that globally very few persons are able to dispute the results. In southern Finland the yearly temperature variations is between -25 and +30 deg C. The yearly variation is thus ca. 55 deg C. I think that the antarctic islands due to the influence from the sea is slightly less. Still 1 deg C change in a range of perhaps 50 deg C looks really insignificant.
Does any reader have any good interesting pointer to what the wide sound between S America and Antarctica really is. Visually it looks like an impact from areally big body. How old is this scar and how was it created?
Ps. There is some fault in submitting comments. WordPress tries to force me to use for example face book login and also ask me for permission to access my network of friends. It looks like posting fails if I do not grant access. I think there is a serious problem. I switched to an alternative address to post.

BJ

Was I the only one to see the polar bear comment as sarcasm? Thought it was funny, m’self.

John W.

“John says:
March 21, 2012 at 11:47 pm
Wouldn’t a 1 degree temperature rise lead to somewhat lower thermoregulation requirements?”
No. It only seems like it would because you missed the part about Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming causing Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Cooling. (Which will lead to Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming followed by Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Cooling in a never ending cycle because “As Master surely knows, it’s turtles all the
way down.”)

Shooter

Wow. They didn’t even get the geography right. Another useless study. Don’t they know that the Arctic spends half of the year in darkness?

In my opinion, it is so important to save the polar bears, that we should move a thousand or so mating pairs to Antarctica. Then we could make a fun cartoon about the effect on dancing penguins. Let’s make sure the cartoon has product placements from Coke and Nissan Leafs.