In this week’s Under the covers (Nature revealed) blog, Nature’s Art Director Kelly Krause discusses the inspiration behind the striking front cover image of Antarctic fur seals.
Antarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus gazella) on an iceberg at Bird Island, South Georgia. This species was hunted almost to extinction by the early twentieth century but numbers began to recover when sealing operations stopped, and thanks to an abundant food supply it has survived in large numbers. But fur seals are particularly vulnerable to climate change as they inhabit a region with fast-changing temperatures, and their relatively long generation time limits their ability to adapt evolutionarily. An analysis of three decades of data from South Georgia now shows that the seals are in decline again, with female numbers down by some 30% between 2003 and 2012. Harsh conditions have, however, selected for higher genetic heterozygosity among females. While this is not in itself an evolutionary response, as environmental conditions continue to worsen, heterozygote advantage could help maintain genetic variation, potentially buying time to allow the species to respond via adaptation. Cover photo: Jaume Forcada
From the Art Desk:
Art Director, Kelly Krause, explains:
“This excellent photo of Antarctic fur seals was taken by Jaume Forcada, one of the authors of the paper. We like to use photos from researchers when possible, rather than stock or photo library images, and it’s fantastic when research groups like this one take high quality images in the field. The picture has all of the qualities of a good photo: excellent composition and clarity, a sense of place and action, and a good deal of personality comes through as well.”
For additional behind the scenes commentary each week, check out the Nature Art Team’s Nature Graphics Tumblr