Creature Feature – Northern Elephant Seal
This week’s featured creature is the Northern Elephant Seal.
Elephant seals are very large earless seals belonging to the genus Mirounga. Two species exist – the northern elephant seal and the southern elephant seal. Elephant seals are the largest extant carnivorous mammals. Their name is derived from their large proboscis (nose) that somewhat resembles an elephants trunk!
Scientific Name: Mirounga angustirostris
Northern Elephant Seal Fact File
Size: The male seal measures 4-5m long and can weigh up to 3,700kg (though a weight up to 2,300kg is more regularly observed). Females are much smaller and can measure from 2.5 to 3.6m in length. They can weigh up to 900kg
Distribution: This species can be found in the eastern Pacific Ocean with the largest colonies found off southern California in the Channel Islands
Diet: Elephant seals primarily feed on fish and on cephalopods, namely squid. However, they also consume rays and sharks
Behaviour: Unlike the southern elephant seal, this species is nonmigratory. During the breeding season, elephant seals become aggressive toward each other. Male seals (bulls) fight to establish territories along beaches and to acquire harems of up to 40 female seals (cows)
IUCN Status: Least Concern. These seals were once thought to be extinct due to commercial sealing in the 1800s. A small population survived in Mexico and the population began to steadily increase in the early 1900s. Top threats now include human intrusion and disturbance, and pollution