Learn about Elephant Seals
The elephant seal is a type of large, earless seal
comprising the taxonomic genus mirounga. There are two
species of elephant seal, the northern elephant seal,
or Mirounga angustirostris, and the southern elephant
seal, Mirounga leonina.
The elephant seal is an oceangoing seal. The northern
elephant seal can be found along the Pacific coast of
Mexico, the U.S., and Canada, with its range in the
north ending at the southern tip of Vancouver, Canada.
The southern elephant seal resides along the coasts
of New Zealand, South Africa, and Argentina, as well
as around several Southern Hemisphere islands in the
Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Of all seal species, the elephant seal is the largest.
Southern elephant seals are larger than their northern
relatives, with males typically measuring 16 feet in
length and weighing 6,600 pounds, and females being
significantly smaller at an average of ten feet long
and 2,000 pounds. At their largest, southern elephant
seal males can measure 20 feet in length and weigh 8,000
pounds. Northern elephant seal males measure between
14 and 16 feet in length and can weigh up to 5,400 pounds.
The elephant seal is notable for more than just its
size; adult males have a large proboscis which somewhat
resembles the trunk of an elephant, hence the name "elephant
seal." This proboscis helps males retain moisture in
their bodies, which is especially useful during the
mating season, when males remain on land for extended
periods of time. It also allows male elephant seals
to make exceptionally loud roaring sounds, which are
also used during the mating season.
A carnivore, the elephant seal subsists primarily on
medium- to large-sized sea life, such as large fish,
small sharks, rays, eels, squid, and octopuses. To hunt,
the elephant seal dives to average depths or 980 to
1,970 feet. It can hold its breath for over 100 minutes,
though males typically dive for an hour and females
for 20 minutes.
The elephant seal is protected from the cold of the
deep ocean predominantly by its blubber, but also by
its coat. Although it spends 80% of its life in the
ocean, the elephant seal must come to land in the spring
and summer months to stay warm as they molt. While molting,
not only the seal's hair but the outer layers of its
skin fall off in large patches. The seal regrows another
coat on the relative warmth of land.
One of the other few activities in which the elephant
seal partakes on land is mating. During the mating season,
male elephant seals fight to assert their right to both
territory and female elephant seals. The victors of
these matches gather groups of female mating partners
and protect them from other males. Females also give
birth on land.
About the Author
Jacob Maddox manages content for Wildlife Animals http://www.wildlife-animals.com
an educational wildlife and animal website.