Mammalian reproductive biology is modified consistently across pinnipeds to achieve a synchronous and seasonal reproductive pattern. This synchrony relies on an embryonic diapause and ensures optimal conditions for offspring survival. Behavioral observations on Galapagos sea lions (Zalophus wollebaeki) indicate little synchrony and variable breeding seasons, making this species unique among otariids. We studied the reproductive physiology of wild female Galapagos sea lions in 2 months in contrasting seasons, March 2005 (n = 11) and August 2006 (n = 12) by examining progesterone and estrogen concentrations in serum and plasma. We provide physiological evidence for remarkably low synchrony and minor seasonality in the breeding cycle of Galapagos sea lions. Specifically, we found females in intermediate or advanced pregnancy during both seasons, as determined by high progesterone concentrations coupled with physical examination. Possible causes for this low synchrony are absence of strong photoperiodic change throughout the year, thought to regulate embryonic diapause, or adaptation to an environment with variable productivity and prey availability, or both.
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