Tara Seal Research has specialised in studies of social organisation, mother-pup behaviour, pup development and juvenile play for many years. The information forms the basis of much of the recent work on seal well-being in rehabilitation and captivity.

Wilson, S.C. and Kleiman, D.G. (1974).  Eliciting play: a comparative study (Octodon, Octodontomys, Pediolagus, Phoca, Choeropsis, Ailuropoda).  American Zoologist 14(1): 341–370. This paper described juvenile play patterns in three species of S. American caviomorph rodents, the pigmy hippo, the giant panda and the harbour (common) seal. The focus of the paper was in he type of movement that characterises play (loose body tone, rotation head movement, exaggerated motor movement) and how body odour may elicit these movemkents, and how the play then leads to more body nosing and touching, thus reinforcing social bonds. A pdf of this paper can be downloaded from the attachments below.

A report in 1978 to the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission -   ‘Social organization and behavior of harbor seals, Phoca vitulina concolor, in Maine' - has been edited and shortened into two parts, which may be downloaded from the attachment section below. The full reference is: Report to the Marine Mammal Commission PB-280 188. Contract no. MM6AC013, April 1978. xi + 103pp.

Wilson, S.C. (1974).  Mother-young interactions in the common seal Phoca vitulina vitulina.  Behaviour 48: 23–35. (Abstract). This paper described the interactions between mother and pup of the common (harbour) seal and how the relationship between mother and pup changes as the nursing period progresses from birth to weaning at 3–4 weeks of age. A pdf of the full  paper may be downloaded from the attachment section below.

Wilson, S.C. (1974).  Juvenile play of the common seal Phoca vitulina vitulina with comparative notes on the grey seal Halichoerus grypus. Behaviour 48: 37–60. (Abstract). This paper describes the play behaviour of common and grey seal juveniles.  A pdf of the full paper may be downloaded from the attachment section below.

Wilson, S.C.  (1975).  Attempted mating between a male grey seal and female harbor seals.  Journal of Mammalogy 56(2): 531–534. Only the first page of this paper is available online (without payment), so the remainder of the paper will be uploaded when possible.

Wilson, S.C., Miller, L., Hursey, M., Frantz, M. and Gorte, J.  (1985).  The social development of a captive grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) pup for the first six months.  Aquatic Mammals 1985, 11.3: 89–100. This paper describes the development of behaviour of a female grey seal pup born at the Natonal Zoo, Washington DC, and her interactions with her mother, elder sister and another unrelated female.  A pdf of this paper may be downloaded from the Aquatic Mammals website (the file size is too large for attachment to this webpage).

Two powerpoint presentations 'mother-pup cycle' and 'weaning and post-weaning' are also attached here. These are a summary of studies by Tara Seal Research and also review of research by other authors.

Download this file (Demand test feasibilty study 2012.pdf)Do orphan seal pups need a companion? [a preliminary study to assess orphan pup social needs in rehabilitation]1046 kB
Download this file (natural weaning and post-weaning behaviour.pdf)weaning and post-weaning[weaning and post-weaning cycle in harbour seals]576 kB
Download this file (The natural behaviour cycle of mother-pup pairs of harbour seals.pdf)mother-pup cycle[mother-pup cycle birth to weaning in harbour seals]1392 kB
Download this file (Wilson 1974 Juvenile play of common seals.pdf)Wilson 1974 juvenile play[juvenile play of wild harbour seals Phoca vitulina]4235 kB
Download this file (Wilson 1978 Maine_pup_socialisation_1976.pdf)Wilson 1978 Maine pup socialisation[post-weaning social behaviour of harbour seal pups in Maine]960 kB
Download this file (Wilson 1978 Maine_social_organisation.pdf)Wilson 1978 social organisation of harbour seals in Maine[social behaviour of harbour seals at haul-out site in Maine]845 kB
Download this file (Wilson and Kleiman 1974 Eliciting Play.pdf)Wilson & Kleiman 1974 play[play in harbour seal mother-pup and juveniles and other mammals]973 kB
Download this file (Wilson, 1974 mother young interactions.pdf)Wilson 1974 Mother-young interactions[development of mother-pup relationship in wild harbour seals Phoca vitulina]1944 kB