Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (MS)



NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Julie Richmond

Second Advisor

Dr. John Hatle

Third Advisor

Dr. David Waddell

Department Chair

Dr. Daniel C. Moon

College Dean

Dr. Barbara A. Hetrick


Metabolic hormones and their axes, including the target tissues and receptors, regulate the tissue specific utilization of nutrients with in the body. The purpose of this research was to understand the hormonal control of complex nutrient partitioning mechanisms involved in young, growing animals. Specifically, this involved the investigation of metabolic hormones and the regulation of growth in two common species of phocids (true seals): harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) and Northern elephant seal (Mirounga angustirostris) pups. This longitudinal study examines young phocids from nutritional nadir through realimentation (realimentation) to investigate how metabolic hormones involved in both food intake and nutrient partitioning change with respect to nutritional state.

To investigate the role of metabolic hormones during realimentation in a small phocid seal, chapter 2 focuses on the changes in the somatotropic axis and ghrelin during a 10-week period of realimentation following nutritional nadir. Chapter 3 focuses on the application of the results of previous research and the second chapter of this thesis to a specific experimental feeding project. Chapter 4 focuses on the response to changes in nutritional status in the fasting adapted NES. Given the changes in metabolism and priority of nutrient utilization associated with transitioning from a nursing neonate to a fasting adapted juvenile, NES provide a unique opportunity to assess the effect of age on the response to realimentation.

Overall, this research will further expand the understanding of tissue specific demands and the effect on endocrine response to realimentation. By incorporating assessments of metabolic changes based on nutrition as well as age, this study will expound on how metabolic hormones are involved in regulating the trade-off between adipose and lean tissue development in this unique taxon.