University of St Andrews
 
 

School of Biology News Centre

item 213
[14-09-2009 to 14-10-2009]


News Item:
Seals like it hot


Using innovative thermal imaging techniques and CCTV recording, a St Andrews academic has shed new light on previously unseen aspects of the life of seals.

Harbour seals, like most mammals, re-grow some or all of their hair each year. In a unique study, William Paterson of the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) at the University of St Andrews followed two adult female seals from late pregnancy through pupping and then to the end of the moult period.

He used thermal imaging technology to further study the energy this costs the animals, and the impact of the often undetected annual moulting process.

Presenting his results at the British Ecological Society's Annual Meeting at the University of Hertfordshire this week, Paterson reveals a stunning series of thermal images of harbour seals that show graphically for the first time the significant amount of energy these animals expend during their annual moult from August through September.

A joint team from the Sea Mammal Research Unit, University of Glasgow and Edinburgh Napier University used the technology for the first time to measure the body surface temperature of two adult harbour seals as they hauled out of the water onto land.

The images show that their skin heats up to aid the shedding and re-growth of hair, and CCTV footage of the seals shows that they spend more time out of the water during moulting to avoid losing too much heat.

Paterson explains, "Our thermal images show that when moulting, their skin surface gets very hot as they must circulate blood close to the skin surface to allow hair to grow quickly.  As a result, they expend a lot of energy during the moult and need to remain ashore for long periods to avoid becoming chilled in the cold water."

"Most mammals, including humans re-grow some or all of their hair each year. We may be familiar with dogs and cats shedding their hair each summer or horses growing a thick coat for the winter. For marine mammals such as seals this annual moult often goes undetected, but it is equally important for maintaining their health and condition while at sea. Growing new hair doesn't come for free as the energy cost of moult for some species of seals is up to half of the energy required to rear a pup."

Paterson's results give insights into the energy requirements of this species, some of whose UK populations have declined by up 50% since 2000, and Paterson hopes that his study could also have positive implications for seal population monitoring.

"Currently, harbour seals are counted by SMRU in aerial surveys during the period of moult. Our study confirms that using thermal imaging to count seals at moult is the most effective way of detecting seals at this time," Paterson continued.

"The work also highlights the importance of the moult period for harbour seals to maintain healthy skin conditions and for body insulation while on land. Emphasis is given to try and not disturb harbour seals during the pupping period as mothers suckle their young, and the same treatment should also be afforded to these animals during the moult period. Disturbances would increase the seals' energy expenditureand prolong the duration of the moult. The implications would be that there would be less time available for foraging as the animals head into winter and they may have less fat reserves as a result."

Paterson's study is a joint project between the Universities of St Andrews, Glasgow and Edinburgh Napier and was funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

BBC Scotland: Seals 'heat up' to help grow hair.

see here for further details
contact: Mr William Paterson


 

Biology News Archive:

Opportunities



Research Blog



Upcoming Events
  • CBD Seminar: Conflicts between biodiversity conservation and human livelihoods: an interdisciplinary approach
    speaker: Nils Bunnfield (Stirling University )

    building: Dyers Brae
    room: Seminar Room
    see also: additional details
    host/contact: ecg5@st-andrews.ac.uk

    Conflicts between human livelihoods and biodiversity conservation are increasing in scale and intensity and have been shown to be damaging for both biodiversity and humans. Managing a specific natural resource often results in conflict between those stakeholders focussing on improving livelihoods and food security and those focussed on biodiversity conversation. Uncertainty, for example from climate change, decreases food security, puts further pressure on biodiversity and exacerbates conflicts. I will present first results towards developing a novel model that integrates game theory and social-ecological modelling to develop new approaches to manage conservation conflicts. The project has importance for society at large because ecosystems and their services are central to human wellbeing and unlocking these conflicts will provide great potential for a more sustainable future.


    refID: 1841

    hide details

  • CBD Seminar: How did the butterfly get its colours? The genetic control of colour and pattern diversity in Heliconius butterflies
    speaker: Nicola Nadeau (The University of Sheffield)

    building: Dyers Brae
    room: Seminar Room
    see also: additional details
    host/contact: ecg5@st-andrews.ac.uk

    Butterfly wing patterns are a striking example of biological diversity.The neotropical Heliconius butterflies in particular have extensive within and between species diversity in their wing colour patterns. Some of this diversity is due to variation at the gene cortex, which has repeatedly been targeted by natural selection, both to produce mimetic colour pattern resemblances within Heliconius and remarkably to shift camouflage in the peppered moth. I will also talk about ongoing work in my lab to identify genes controlling iridescent structural colour.


    refID: 1849

    hide details

  • CBD Seminar: TBA
    speaker: Amanda Bretman (University of Leeds )

    building: Dyers Brae
    room: Seminar Room
    see also: additional details
    host/contact: ecg5@st-andrews.ac.uk

    refID: 1850

    hide details

  • SOI seminar: Skilful predictions of the winter North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)
    speaker: Dr Nick Dunstone (Met Office)

    building: Bute
    room: Lecture theatre D
    see also: additional details
    host/contact: Prof Chris Todd

    The winter North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) is the primary mode of atmospheric variability in the North Atlantic sector. It has a profound impact on surface conditions over the North Atlantic ocean and temperature & precipitation over Europe and North America. The NAO exhibits pronounced interannual variability, particularly in the last decade, with strong positive NAO leading to mild & stormy European winters (e.g. 2011/12, 2013/14) and strong negative NAO winters giving cold & dry winters (e.g. 2009/10, 2010/11). Until recently seasonal forecasting systems have had no significant skill in predicting the winter NAO, leading many to assume that the NAO was largely a chaotic mode of atmospheric variability and inherently unpredictable. Here I will outline our recent work using the Met Office high-resolution climate models to show that the NAO is indeed predictable both one month ahead of winter and that significant skill still remains one year ahead. I will  examine the drivers of predictability on these two timescales and show that the discovery of NAO predictability is at odds with the skill of the model predicting itself. This surprising result indicates that the real-world is in fact far more predictable than we previously thought and it is likely that even the latest high-resolution climate models are unable to realistically represent the physical processes and feedbacks operating in the real world, resulting in too little signal and/or too much noise. Finally, I show how these new skilful NAO predictions are beginning to be used to aid decision making in government and industry.


    refID: 1862

    hide details

  • TBC
    speaker: Petra Neveceralova (Charles University, Prague)

    building: BMS
    room:
    see also: additional details
    host/contact: elc6@st-andrews.ac.uk

    refID: 1863

    hide details



Events
Biology, BSRC

  • 25-02-2017 at 19-00 - Dance, Social
    St Andrews BioBall 2017 - Dinner and Ceilidh Dance
    BioSoc
    Hotel du Vin, 40 The Scores, St Andrews

    25-02-2017 at 19-00 - Dance, Social
    St Andrews BioBall 2017 - Dinner and Ceilidh Dance

    BioSoc
    Hotel du Vin, 40 The Scores, St Andrews

    Join BioSoc for BIOBALL 2017 - the School of Biology dinner/dance event of the year. This will be a beautiful event at Hotel du Vin on The Scores on Saturday 25 February 2017. Tickets are subsidised by the School of Biology and BioSoc and include a three course meal with complimentary wine followed by a ceilidh dance by one of the best bands in town. You can come for either the dinner and the dance (recommended!), or later on for the dance only.

    <p>Last remaining tickets are being sold online until Friday 10 February at 9am. <a href="https://www.tilt.com/tilts/school-of-biology-bioball-dinner-dance-ticket">Ceilidh (dance ticket only) &pound;11</a>; <a href="https://www.tilt.com/tilts/st-andrews-bioball-ceilidh-dance-ticket-ps11">dinner and dance ticket &pound;38</a>. Please visit the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/events/694647004037200/">Facebook event page</a>&nbsp;for more information.&nbsp;</p>

    further details

    prebooking: Yes
    audience: All staff and students
    contact: University of St Andrews BioSoc




  • 28-02-2017 at 13-00 - Meeting
    The future of the University: what mid-career academics should tell the Principal!
    RSE Young Academy of Scotland Members with the Principal
    TBA upon registration

    28-02-2017 at 13-00 - Meeting
    The future of the University: what mid-career academics should tell the Principal!

    RSE Young Academy of Scotland Members with the Principal
    TBA upon registration

    The St Andrews-based members of the RSE Young Academy of Scotland are hosting a pair of lunch-time meetings to discuss how mid-career academics see the key issues and challenges faced by the University in the coming years. Will you still be here in 10 years? Do you care about the sort of academic environment you will be working in? What do you think are the main challenges facing universities in general, and St Andrews in particular? And how should we respond to them? The Principal will join us for this second meeting to give her perspective on the issues we raised following the meeting on 14 February, and to take part in an open and energetic conversation. All discussions will be under Chatham House rules, i.e. not attributable to specific individuals.

    <p>Lunch will be provided at both events. If you are interested in participating, please RSVP to Tracey Gloster via&nbsp;<a href="mailto:tmg@st-andrews.ac.uk">tmg@st-andrews.ac.uk</a>&nbsp;by 8 February, stating which meeting(s) you would like to attend, and any dietary requirements.</p>

    further details

    prebooking: Yes
    audience: Staff
    contact: Tracey Gloster




all University events | submit an event