The behaviour of grey seals is diverse and subtle; it changes with age and with the seasons. It is also difficult to study due to the aqueous, remote lifestyle of grey seals. Especially little is known about the behaviour of young individuals, their early development, and the role of steroid hormones that might affect their nervous, immune and reproductive systems.

vaidaResearch into social behaviour and factors that influence it could provide a better understanding of grey seal locomotion and behaviour in the water and on land, of how they gather in social groups, and provide us with the ability to recognize different individuals and behavioural changes during growth.

Our current research aims to evaluate the changes in social behaviour and steroid concentrations in grey seals during early ontogenesis (from weaning to maturity).

Behavioural research is performed in the wild during natural conditions on the Isle of May (Scotland), one of the largest grey seal breeding areas in UK. Between September and December, thousands of seals gather to give birth and mate afterwards. The behaviour is studied in collaboration with the most renowned grey seal behaviour specialists. We use high-quality behavioural recording tools and geographic information systems (ArcGIS, QGIS) for data registration and analysis.

Concentrations of steroids (cortisol, estradiol, testosterone and dihydrotestosterone) are estimated using several different methods, like ELISA, thin layer chromatography (TLC), and gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Not only blood is used for steroid analysis, but also non-invasive sources like saliva.

 

Contacts

Vaida Surviliene, PhD student, Junior research fellow

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tel.: +370 662 11047

Collaborators

Dr. P. Pomeroy, Sea Mammal Research Unit, University of St. Andrews, Scotland, UK.

Dr. E. Naujalis, Department of Metrology, Center for Physical Sciences and Technology, Vilnius University.

Dr. V. Bendikiene, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Vilnius University.

Arunas Grusas, Lithuanian Sea Museum, Klaipeda, Lithuania.

Internships

2012.10 –12 and 2013.10-12 Data collection for personal PhD and fieldwork assistance during the scientific research of grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) in the Isle of May, Scotland. Sea Mammal Research Unit, Gatty Marine Laboratory, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK.

2009.06.01-09.01: Internship (Erasmus practice) – scientific fieldwork project and behavioural observations of grey seals in the wild on the subject: “Sexual and social behaviour of young grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) individuals during the non-breeding season”. Sea Mammal Research Unit, Gatty Marine Laboratory, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK.

Financial support

Society for Marine Mammalogy Grants in Aid of Research, 2013. Project: Survilienė V. The development of social behaviour of Grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) during the post-weaning fast.

Grant for equipment from IDEA WILD (http://www.ideawild.org/), 2014. Project: Survilienė, V. The development of social behavior of Grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) during the post-weaning fast.

Publications

Survilienė, V., Rukšėnas, O. & Pomeroy, P. P. 2016. Play behavior of wild Grey seals: Effects of haul-out group size and composition. Aquatic Mammals, 42(2), 144-161. DOI: 10.1578/AM.42.2.2016.144

Other:

Natkevičiūtė, V., Kulikov, P. & Grušas, A. 2013. Baltijos jūros žinduolių paplitimas ir būklė. Straipsnių rinkinyje: Baltijos jūros būklė. Jūrinių tyrimų centras, LR Aplinkos ministerija.

Conferences:

Survilienė, V., Pomeroy, P., Moss S. and Rukšėnas, O.

The use of saliva samples to estimate levels of steroids in grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) pups. Conference of Life Sciences Baltic, Vilnius, 2016.

Natkeviciute, V. & Ruksenas, O. Testosterono priklausomybė nuo kūno masės: seilių analizės metodas Baltijos pilkųjų ruonių (Halichoerus grypus macrorhynchus) testosterono koncentracijai nustatyti. Stendinis pranešimas, santrauka pranešimų medžiagoje bei diplomas už I vietą. Mokslinė konferencija „Mokslas Gamtos mokslų fakultete“, Gamtos mokslų fakultetas, Vilniaus Universitetas, Vilnius, 2012.

Natkeviciute, V. Elgsenos stebėjimai laisvėje: socialinis žaidimas neporavimosi sezonu pilkųjų ruonių (Halichoerus grypus) tarpe. International conference "Virtualūs instrumentai biomedicinoje". Klaideda University, Klaipeda, 2012