Harp seal pup

Preemie Seals Paradox Puzzling Researchers

ICTMN Staff
1/22/11

Seals are being born prematurely in the Canadian Arctic, and pups are washing up dead on beaches in Labrador.

A scientist says the phenomena may be linked. Garry Stenson, a researcher at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), said that it could be an indication that seal population growth is leading to reproductive problems, according to the CBC.

"What you expect in a population that is starting to regulate itself are things like lower reproductive rates and variable reproductive rates, but also higher pup mortality and also higher juvenile mortality," he said in early January.

There are eight or nine million harp seals in Atlantic Canada, Stenson said.

Seals are starting to give birth prematurely, in December instead of late February or early March, Stenson said. Moreover, the births are supposed to take place on ice floes, but with reduced ice in their habitat, the seals are having to migrate. With birth happening on land rather than ice flows, the pups are not expected to survive.

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