Iron mobilization during lactation reduces oxygen stores in a diving mammal

Abstract

The profound impacts that maternal provisioning of finite energy resources has on offspring survival have been extensively studied across mammals. This study shows that in addition to calories, high hemoprotein concentrations in diving mammals necessitates exceptional female-to-pup iron transfer. Numerous indices of iron mobilization (ferritin, serum iron, totaliron-binding-capacity, transferrin saturation) were significantly elevated during lactation in adult female Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii), but not in skip-breeders. Iron was mobilized from endogenous stores for incorporation into the Weddell seal’s milk at concentrations up to 100× higher than terrestrial mammals. Such high rates of iron offload to offspring drew from the female’s own heme stores and led to compromised physiologic dive capacities (hemoglobin, myoglobin, and total body oxygen stores) after weaning their pups, which was further reflected in shorter dive durations. We demonstrate that lactational iron transfer shapes physiologic dive thresholds, identifying a cost of reproduction to a marine mammal.

Description

Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

Keywords

oxygen stores, dive durations, Weddell seals, offspring survival, marine mammals, maternal provisioning

Citation

Shero, M.R., Kirkham, A.L., Costa, D.P. et al. Iron mobilization during lactation reduces oxygen stores in a diving mammal. Nat Commun 13, 4322 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-31863-7

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