elephant seal

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elephant seal

or

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.

Bibliography

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.

REFERENCES

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

K. K. CHAPSKII

References in periodicals archive ?
Unlike seals or sea lions, elephant seals breed and have their young in the winter.
Within coastside's coves and in its frigid water are harbor seals, humpback whales, America's largest mainland northern elephant seal rookery, and hundreds of seabirds, including black oystercatchers, turnstones, and marbled murrelets.
When that happened, elephant seals capitalized on the newly opened habitat by migrating to the Victoria Land Coast from their nearest breeding site on Macquarie Island, where the animals still live today.
In the late 1970s, when large numbers of northern elephant seals came bellowing back to the California mainland at Ano Nuevo in San Mateo County, those seals drew major crowds and eventually got their own preserve.
The scientists found that when the Antarctic ice sheets of the Ross Sea Embayment retreated in the Holocene period 8,000 years ago, elephant seals adopted the emergent habitat and established a new population which flourished.
SUNRISE SEAL COLONY: Elephant seals crawl up the beach at California's Point Reyes National Seashore to soak up the first drops of daylight.
The dune trail takes you to Ano Nuevo Point and a gently curving beach where you might see a small colony of elephant seals on the sand.
Biologists will release two elephant seals off Santa Catalina Island today in a program that will allow computer users to track the seals' movements on the Internet - the first project of its kind on the West Coast, researchers said.
The eyes belonged to a pair of elephant seals - wrinkled, golden brown pups that turned up sick and stranded above the surf near Ventura early that March morning.
Spies dozens of elephant seals on a remote beach south of Big Sur and gets close-up photographs.
The marine mammals seen in the area during the tests have included a whole variety of whales from sperm whales to humpback whales, porpoises, dolphins, elephant seals, sea lions and sea turtles.
This warming trend could affect Giant Petrels in that we're seeing more elephant seals moving south.