elephant seal

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elephant seal


sea elephant,

a true sealseal,
carnivorous aquatic mammal with front and hind feet modified as flippers, or fin-feet. The name seal is sometimes applied broadly to any of the fin-footed mammals, or pinnipeds, including the walrus, the eared seals (sea lion and fur seal), and the true seals, also called
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 of the genus Mirounga. It is the largest of the fin-footed mammals, or pinnipeds, exceeding the walrus in size. There is a northern species, Mirounga angustirostris, along the Pacific coast, and a larger southern species, M. leonina, that breeds on sub-Antarctic islands. Males commonly reach a length of 18 ft (5.5 m) and a weight of 5,000 lb (2,270 kg); the female may measure 10 ft (3 m). A hollow, flabby snout about 15–18 in. (38–45 cm) long on the male gives these seals their name. During the 3-month breeding season the largest bulls stake out territories and try to attract and hold as many females as possible. When a bull is sexually excited or angry it snorts air from the proboscis into the throat, producing sounds heard miles away. Bulls do not eat during breeding, but females without pups feed on squid, fish, crabs, and other organisms that compose their main diet. These earless seals are graceful in water, diving to 2,275 ft (700 m) for food. Seal hunters, who extracted oil from blubber, pushed the northern species to the edge of extinction in the 19th cent. In 1911 the Mexican government extended protection to the single remaining M. angustirostris colony on Guadalupe Island off Baja California; the United States eventually followed suit. By the early 1990s an estimated 60,000 animals were found on island rookeries off Baja and central California. Elephant seals are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Carnivora, suborder Pinnipedia, family Phocidae.


See W. N. Bonner, Seals and Man (1982); B. LeBeouf, Elephant Seals (1985); F. Trillmich, ed., Pinnipeds and El Niño (1991).

Elephant Seal


any one seal of the genus Mirounga of the family Phocidae. They are the largest pinnipeds. The males are 3.7–5.5 m long, with the largest individuals weighing more than 3 tons; the females are up to 3 m long and weigh up to 1 ton. Adult males have a distinctive snout that inflates when the animal is excited and somewhat resembles a short trunk (hence the name). Elephant seals have a coat of brown hair. There are two species: the northern elephant seal (Mirounga angustirostris), which lives near the Pacific coast of North America from California to southern Alaska, and the southern elephant seal (M. leonina), which is found in the pelagic zone of the subantarctic. Elephant seals are herd animals. They breed (forming a harem with a male leader) and molt primarily on island beaches, such as those of the South Georgia and Falkland islands. They feed on fish and, less frequently, on cephalopod mollusks. Because elephant seals are protected species, their numbers are increasing.


Zhizn’ zhivotnykh, vol. 6. Moscow, 1971.
King, J. Seals of the World. London, 1964.


References in periodicals archive ?
The shore was littered with elephant seals and we also met the smaller, much more active fur seals, which chase over-curious passengers fast across the beach.
For the past seven years, Brent Stewart, a biologist at Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute in San Diego, and Robert DeLong, a biologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service in Seattle, have attached tracking devices to number 666 and his cohorts to find out what elephant seals do during the eight to ten months they spend at sea.
Washington, Dec 14 (ANI): Experts have claimed that a Southern elephant seal can travel as far as 18,000 miles, the equivalent of New York to Sydney and back again.
Unlike seals or sea lions, elephant seals breed and have their young in the winter.
This warming trend could affect Giant Petrels in that we're seeing more elephant seals moving south.
Elbert looked at the elephant seals surrounding Boomer and then said, "Come with me.
But Australian scientists have found that some female elephant seals refuse to play the polygyny game, staying in the ocean and mating with whom they chose rather than joining the beachside harems.
It's just that animals like elephant seals are cute and appealing, and we identify because it's a young mammal.
The Antarctic island of South Georgia is home to millions of king penguins and emperor penguins, as well as colonies of elephant seals and albatrosses.
And gray whales, humpback whales, elephant seals, and many other kinds of sea mammals are doing much better.
Nearly 20 years after passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, we're seeing pinnipeds in record populations and unusual situations -- elephant seals blanketing rookeries from the Farallons to the Channel Islands in numbers our great-grandparents couldn't have seen.
And the research revealed some surprising secrets about the way animals - including elephant seals, penguins, cormorants, whales and sharks - live.