Friday, August 12, 2011

Animal of the Day: Elephant Seal

Elephant Seal

Mirounga angustirostris (northern)
Mirounga leonina (southern)

Find out the basics of this species here and here.

Fun Facts 
  • Southern elephant seal males may weigh eight to ten times more than females. This is the biggest weight difference between the sexes of any mammal.
  • Elephant seals are fat for a reason: Their blubber is a source of energy for the long periods when they are not foraging, such as during breeding season. They periodically shed their hair and outer layers of skin, during which the seals are susceptible to cold and must rest in a safe place, known as a haul-out.
  • Other than the time spent on land for breeding and molting, elephant seals may live a solitary life, mostly underwater. The northern elephant seal spends 8–10 months a year in the open ocean. The seals can dive 1,000–5,000 feet deep for periods of 15 minutes to 2 hours and migrate thousands of miles twice a year.
  • Humans once boiled down elephant seal blubber for oil, and some indigenous peoples hunted the southern species for food and skins. Today, elephant seals attract ecotourists when they congregate during their birthing and breeding seasons.
  • The elephant seal is the largest species of seal.

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