Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Northern Elephant Seal

A number of years ago while the kids were still living at home we went to Monterey. On the way back, near San Simeon, we found a whole colony of northern elephant seals sprawled out along the beach. 
We stopped and watched them for a half hour or so and were extremely entertained by a large male who thoroughly enjoyed dominating all of the other seals around him. His bellowing calls nearly matched his girth in terms of standing out among the crowd. 
There was no question as to who was king of the space immediately around him. We also enjoyed the interactions of the females and pups who take a decidedly understated role in the scheme of things on the beach. 
The males, or bulls, have a large proboscis which somewhat resembles an elephant trunk and gives them their name. Unlike the very useful elephant trunk, the bull's proboscis seemed pretty worthless, it just seemed to flop around and get in the way, although it apparently aids the bulls in making their loud noises. 
The bulls can get 16 feet long and weigh 6,000 pounds. Needless to say, you wouldn't want to tangle with one on the beach. 
They spend at least 80% of their time in the ocean and can hold their breath for 100 minutes or more. Their average dives are to 2,000 feet, but one has been recorded going down more than 7,800 feet. They eat such bottom dwelling fish as rays and skates, but also squid, octopus, eel, small sharks and large fish. These are the only elephant seals I've ever seen and it was a very memorable event. 

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