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Mirounga angustirostris

Northern Elephant Seal

Order: Carnivora
Family: Phocidae

Image of Mirounga angustirostris
Mirounga angustirostris - males fighting (right); female (left) with subadult just behind her
Click to enlarge. (96 kb)

Conservation Status: Least Concern.


As is often the case in species where males compete to mate with as many females as possible, northern elephant seal males are much larger than females (1,800 kg versus 650 kg on average). Competitions can be battles, but more often involve mock threats and loud vocalizations. The dominant (alpha) male gets to mate with the most females, maximizing the number of offspring he produces. Fasting is part of their life cycle: males stay on the beach and fast for up to three months during the breeding season, while they are guarding a harem. Females stay on shore with their pups and fast for about a month while they are nursing. Afterward, males and females spend 8-10 mostly solitary months at sea. Males often migrate along a northern route and the females remain farther south. They may travel as far as Japan and log more than 20,000 km annually, spending much of their time underwater foraging for squid and fish. Dives can be as deep as 1,500 m and last as long as two hours, but the seals typically stay submerged for about 18-25 minutes and forage at depths of 350-650 m.

Also known as:
Sea Elephant, Elefante Marino

Sexual Dimorphism:
Males are much larger than females, have much larger canine teeth, and develop a large inflatable bulb on the nose.

Length:
Average: 3.8 m males; 2.5 m females
Range: 3.6-4.2 m males; 2.2-3 m females

Weight:
Average: 1,800 kg males; 650 kg females
Range: 1,500-2,300 kg males; 400-800 kg females

References:

Gill, T., 1866.  Prodome of a monograph of the Pinnepedes.  Proceedings of the Essex Institute, Salem Communications, p. 13.  5:3-13.

Links:

Mammal Species of the World

Mammalian Species, American Society of Mammalogists' species account

Distribution of Mirounga angustirostris

Image of Mirounga angustirostris
Click to enlarge. (71kb)