Throughout the range of the Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus), nearly all births of full-term pups observed from 1968 to 1998 occurred between 15 May and 15 July. We found significant differences in timing of births between rookeries with the earliest mean date of birth (4 June) at Forrester Island, Alaska, and the latest (21 June) at Año Nuevo Island, California. Mean date of birth becomes progressively later both north and south of Forrester Island. Births at individual rookeries were synchronous, with 90% of pups born within a 25-day period. We hypothesize that timing of births at rookeries is determined through selection for time periods when weather conditions are generally favorable for pup survival and when adequate prey items are predictably available near rookeries for lactating females. Temporal differences also were found in mean date of birth at 4 rookeries, with a maximum difference between earliest and latest mean date of birth of 10.2 days at Año Nuevo Island. The most likely explanation for temporal variability at individual rookeries is variable nutritional status of reproductive females.
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