A male Steller sea lion born at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward earlier this month will aid researchers in a project to better understand female sea lion nutritional needs, center president and CEO Tara Riemer said Monday.
"This birth was very, very important," Riemer said.
The pup was born on July 20, 2014, and weighed in at 37.7 pounds on Sunday, Riemer said. The pup's mother, Eden, is 14 years old. The father is 21-year-old Woody.
Last summer, Eden gave birth to a female pup, Ellie, the first Steller sea lion pup born in North American collections since the mid-1980s, according to a release sent out by the center.
Eden mated with Woody again just two weeks after giving birth, Riemer said.
The Alaska SeaLife Center is researching how female Steller sea lions manage to nurse pups while also being pregnant throughout much of their adult life, Riemer said, a physically taxing experience for the animals.
"We're trying to understand nutritionally how female sea lions do what they do," Riemer said.
Having a female give birth to two pups back-to-back is integral to the study, she added.
"We are learning about hormone cycles, pregnancy detection, and pup care," Dr. Lori Polasek, marine mammal scientist with the center, said in the release. "This study has application for population recovery by determining pregnancy rates and pupping success in wild animals."
The center found out Sunday that the pup was a male, after giving Eden and the pup some space for a few days. The male will be named after a geographical location where Steller sea lions gather -- either a haulout, where they rest, or a rookery, where they give birth. For example, Woody is named after Wooded Island off Kodiak.
"The pup will nurse and get all of its nutrition from the mom for about 11 months," Riemer said, but "sometimes we'll give mom a break and give her access to other areas without the pups."