Climatic anomaly affects the immune competence of California sea lions

Marina Banuet-Martínez, Wendy Espinosa de Aquino, Fernando R. Elorriaga-Verplancken, Adriana Flores-Morán, Olga P. García, Mariela Camacho, Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


© 2017 Banuet-Martínez et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. The past decades have been characterized by a growing number of climatic anomalies. As these anomalies tend to occur suddenly and unexpectedly, it is often difficult to procure empirical evidence of their effects on natural populations. We analysed how the recent sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly in the northeastern Pacific Ocean affects body condition, nutritional status, and immune competence of California sea lion pups. We found that pup body condition and blood glucose levels of the pups were lower during high SST events, although other biomarkers of malnutrition remained unchanged, suggesting that pups were experiencing early stages of starvation. Glucose-dependent immune responses were affected by the SST anomaly; specifically, pups born during high SST events had lower serum concentrations of IgG and IgA, and were unable to respond to an immune challenge. This means that not only were pups that were born during the SST anomaly less able to synthesize protective antibodies; they were also limited in their ability to respond rapidly to nonspecific immune challenges. Our study provides empirical evidence that atypical climatic conditions can limit energetic reserves and compromise physiological responses that are essential for the survival of a marine top predator.
Original languageAmerican English
JournalPLoS ONE
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes

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