Presentation on theme: "Named for trunk-like nose of adult males among the largest of all pinnipeds Elephant Seals Mirounga angustirostris."— Presentation transcript:
Named for trunk-like nose of adult males among the largest of all pinnipeds Elephant Seals Mirounga angustirostris
Two species The term Mirounga is derived from an Australian aboriginal name for the elephant seals and represents two species in the genus Our is the Northern (Mirounga angustirostris) from Baja and as far north as Point Reyes on shore, but feed up to Alaska. angustirostris means having a narrower snout than the southern elephant seal Southern Elephant (M. leonina) seals are sub- Antarctic, and larger then the northern species. Both nearly hunted to extinction and now recovering
Females are about 1/3 the size of males Adult males (bulls) measure ft long & can weigh 4,000- 5,000 lbs
elephant seals migrate twice a year from CA and Mexican beaches to Alaska or west to open ocean adult males range to Gulf of Alaska adult females range as far west as Hawaii leave the water twice a year: once to molt and once to breed & give birth at the same beaches where they were born! a tracked male’s route from Southern CA to the Aleutian Islands of Alaska
A male’s route tracked from Southern CA to the Aleutian Islands of Alaska
Mating and birthing occur Dec.- March in places called rookeries… Breeding
in CA, males arrive at beaches in Dec. engage in violent battles to establish dominance the victor wins mating rights to a harem of females unlike other seals, which may have harems averaging 40 cows, a dominant bull elephant seal may have only a dozen cows within his territory.
What’s with that snout?? Mostly for v ocalizations to defend territory and harem May Filter Helps to condense fresh water from breath
Elephant seals do not eat or drink the entire time they are at the rookery! (Dec- March) live off their fat for energy and water on land, males can lose as much as 1,500 pounds females give birth, nurse, and mate without ever eating! -- she will loose about 40% body weight when females leave the rookery in March, they are weak and unhealthy- immediately swim for the continental shelf to search for food
delayed implantation although mating occurs in Jan/Feb, the fertilized egg doesn’t implant in uterus until May/June after the female has fed for several months helps to ensure a healthy pregnancy
Females arrive in Dec. & Jan.- give birth to a pup within 6 days of “hauling out” Female nurses pup for about 1 month with milk that is 55% fat!
Pups weigh approx. 75 lbs. at birth and within one month, weigh lbs Females then leave pups on their own
some pups sneak off and nurse from multiple females “super weaners” can weigh up to 600 lbs
Weaning After 1 month, moms abruptly leave pups Weaned pups congregate safely in "weaner pods” for protection. Pups fur changes from black to silver Pups live off of their fat stores for weeks until they get hungry
can't swim at birth after weaning, learn to swim by venturing into the water for short periods, learning to swim and feed In late April- pups go to sea and disperse north - feed off coast of WA & BC Learning to swim and forage
Molting – all at once! Have a “catastrophic” molt – loose all fur and outer skin layer On land warm blood circulate to skin, in cold water skin has little blood flow
Female Maturity Females give birth for the first time at an average age of 3-4 Females have an average life expectancy of about 20 years.
Male Maturity Males are mature at five years Males don't reach high rank until 8 with prime breeding years between Males have a life expectancy of 14 years.
Males The older males develop a "cornified chest" - a thick calloused skin on the chest with numerous creases that is often pink, white and brown in color. It is used in the fights for dominance and establishing territories and harems. The enlarged proboscis begins to form at sexual maturity about five years and it is fully developed by age seven to nine years
around the 19th day of lactation, female goes into estrus (receptive to mating) the dominant bull mates with all females in his harem while the alpha bull is busy mating, defending the harem, or sleeping, other bulls (“sneaker males”) will try to sneak in and mate with some females
Summer molting Return to same beaches in summer for a month- called “hauling out” With out skin, fur they can not enter the water or they get too cold. Don’t eat or drink for the month they grow new skin Other seal molt, but only the elephant and monk seals have a catastrophic molt.
Dates vary by group: Año Nuevo Molting: April to May for females and juveniles May to June, sub-adult males July to August, adult males.
Año Nuevo The first elephant seals on Año Nuevo Island were sighted in 1955, and the first pup was born there in In 1978, 872 were born there. Males began to haul out on the mainland in A pup born in January 1975 was the first known mainland birth of a northern elephant seal at Año Nuevo; 86 pups were born there in By 1988/1989, about 2,000 elephant seals came ashore at Año Nuevo, and the number of seals breeding and giving birth on the mainland is still increasing. During the breeding season, approximately 2,000 pups were born on the mainland. - from park website
Dives Elephant seals dive longer and deeper than most other marine mammals Dive for food- mostly squid, rays, skates, crabs (& minimize predation..) At sea, spend 80-95% of their time in dives –may even sleep while diving below predators Average dive time = 20 minutes-- can be 1- 2 hours Dives are typically ft. & deepest recorded = 5,015 in 1991
Deep Dives Avoid predators – great white sharks, Orcas Deep water food is concentrated at these depths Even most of the whales can’t get at the food source this deep – little competition. Allowed for speedy recovery? Shorter life span- “crushing physiology”
range north along continental margin to Alaska range routes highly consistent dive profiles are flat-bottomed – feeding off sea floor (skates, rays, ratfish) Ranging & feeding differences between sexes range west to open ocean ranges more variable than males- pursuing moving prey dive profiles are jagged- show females are following swimming prey (squid) FEMALES MALES
Dive physiology heart rate drops by 65% (110 40 beats per min) (also on land - 30%) metabolism slows high hemoglobin, myoglobin holds large amounts of O2 as they dive, exhale to collapse lungs – decreases chance of nitrogen entering bloodstream which could cause “bends” when dissolved gas out of solution bloodstream carries oxygen only to vital organs
hundreds of thousands of northern elephant seals once inhabited Pacific Ocean from mid-1800s to the early 1900s, elephant seals were hunted for blubber (oil ) by 1890, only seals remained only remaining colony was on the Guadalupe Island (Baja California) 1922, Mexican gov’t gave protected status to elephant seals- U.S. followed suit elephant seals have continued to multiply exponentially & have extended breeding range as far north as Point Reyes today approx. 160,000 northern elephant seals Conservation Status