Skip to Content | Contact

Live fast and die young; the cost of early breeding in southern elephant seals

Live fast and die young; the cost of early breeding in southern elephant seals
Marine Desprez


Desprez M
Department of Environment and Geography, Macquarie University

Hindell M. A.
Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania

Gimenez, O
Institution not provided

McMahon C
Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University


When to begin breeding is an important life-history decision that implies trade-offs, also known as the cost of reproduction, between present reproduction and future survival and reproduction. The cost of reproduction is important in shaping the life-history strategies of many species and can potentially strongly influence the fitness and the population viability. The youngest first-time breeders are expected to have lower subsequent survival and/or fecundity than individuals that delay their first reproduction to an older age. Consequently younger first-time breeders are likely to have lower lifetime reproductive success and/or to produce low-quality offspring. To quantify the effects of early breeding, we estimated the age-specific survival and the subsequent breeding probabilities of first-time breeders in a population of permanently marked southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) at Macquarie Island. We also investigated the relation between the maternal age at first reproduction and both the lifetime reproductive success and the offspring survival using multi-event capture-recapture models that account for both imperfect detection and uncertainty in the breeding status. Our results clearly supported the presence of a cost of early reproduction as the youngest first time breeders have a lower survival and breed less frequently than the females that delayed their first reproduction attempt.

Keywords: cost of reproduction, age at first reproduction, Mirounga leonina, multi-event capture-recapture model.

Latest news

  • Conference prize winners
    27 Jun 2013

    The Strategic Science in Antarctica conference concluded yesterday and two days of workshops have commenced. Congratulations to those who were awarded prizes for their contributions to the conference.

  • Watch the welcome message from Australia's Environment Minister
    24 Jun 2013

    In a welcome message via video from Canberra, Australia’s Environment Minister, Tony Burke, reflected on the foresight of earlier decision-makers who agreed to set aside an entire continent for scientific research.

  • Last minute information for attendees
    20 Jun 2013

    There's not too long to wait until the start of the Strategic Science in Antarctica conference, and we hope you’re as excited as we are! Read on for more information about the final program, registration, Twitter, presenters, posters and social functions.

More news…

Key dates

  • 11th June 2013
    Registrations close
  • 21st June 2013
    Registrations at the AAD open for staff
  • 24th June 2013
    Registrations at the venue open
  • 24th June 2013
    Conference commences
  • 26th June 2013
    Conference concludes

More key dates…

This page was last modified on 5 September 2013.