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'Mamma's Boys' Get Coddled Even Among Sea Lions

Dec 03, 2014 10:31 PM EST
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mother and son
Many mothers will tell you that raising a boy takes a lot more out of you, compared to raising a little girl. The same apparently goes for sea lions too, where male pups stay "mamma's boys" longer and exhaust a lot more of their parent's energy, compared to sea lion daughters.
(Photo : Flickr: A.Davey )

Many mothers will tell you that raising a boy takes a lot more out of you, compared to raising a little girl. The same apparently goes for sea lions too, where male pups stay "mamma's boys" longer and exhaust a lot more of their parent's energy, compared  to sea lion daughters.

That's at least according to a study recently published in the journal Animal Behaviour, which details how male pups on the Galápagos Islands rely on their mothers more and for longer, compared to females.

Just like in many other mammal species, female seals take a little less time to mature than their male counterparts. However, the burden of raising a son is exacerbated by the fact that young males will venture out to sea to learn to capture their own food far less often than females, according to research observations.

Stranger still, it's not like males are less capable of diving. Despite the fact females may mature faster, both genders gain the ability to dive on their own at the same time, and can reach the same depths. Yet, for the most part, males don't bother.

"We always saw the [young] males around the colony surfing in tide pools, pulling the tails of marine iguanas, resting, sleeping," study lead author Pablo Piedrahita told National Geographic. "It's amazing. You can see an animal - 40 kilograms (88 pounds) - just resting, waiting for mom."

According to the study Piedrahita and his colleagues attached special recording devices onto the backs of 93 juvenile sea lions that ranged in age from 1 to 2 years old. For up to three weeks, the devices collected information about the location of the animals and whether or not they were diving.

Amazingly, for every age category, the females were easily more active than the males, diving frequently when mom was away on a hunt for food.

Feeding themselves meant that fever females needed their mother's milk, even as the male pups still required it - draining their mother energy in the process.

However, the researchers suggest that coddling a male pup may be an investment strategy. While daughters usually have one pup annually, sons can sire many, leading to many more "grandpups."

This may be why they are worth the stress of a "momma's boy" even while daughter pups are encouraged to go explore and hunt on their own, despite the limited risks in doing so.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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