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Encyclopedia > Northern Elephant Seal
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Northern Elephant Seal

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Phocidae
Genus: Mirounga
Species: M. angustirostris
Mirounga angustirostris
(Gill, 1866)

The Northern Elephant Seal (Mirounga angustirostris) is one of two species of elephant seal (the other is the Southern Elephant Seal). It is a member of the Phocidae ("true seals") family. Elephant seals derive their name from their great size and from the male's large proboscis, which is used in making extraordinarily loud roaring noises, especially during the mating competition. There is a great sexual dimorphism in size, with the males (bulls) reaching five meters in length, much bigger than the females (cows), who average about three meters. Correspondingly, there is a highly polygynous mating system, with a successful male able to impregnate up to 50 females in one season. Download high resolution version (2500x1685, 611 KB)A Northern Elephant Seal (Mirounga angustirostris). ... Scientific classification or biological classification is how biologists group and categorize extinct and living species of organisms (as opposed to folk taxonomy). ... Phyla Subregnum Parazoa Porifera (sponges) Subregnum Agnotozoa Placozoa (trichoplax) Orthonectida (orthonectids) Rhombozoa (dicyemids) Subregnum Eumetazoa Radiata (unranked) (radial symmetry) Ctenophora (comb jellies) Cnidaria (coral, jellyfish, anemones) Bilateria (unranked) (bilateral symmetry) Acoelomorpha (basal) Orthonectida (parasitic to flatworms, echinoderms, etc. ... Typical Classes Subphylum Urochordata - Tunicatas Ascidiacea Thaliacea Larvacea Subphylum Cephalochordata - Lancelets Subphylum Myxini - Hagfishes Subphylum Vertebrata - Vertebrates Petromyzontida - Lampreys Placodermi (extinct) Chondrichthyes - Cartilaginous fishes Acanthodii (extinct) Actinopterygii - Ray-finned fishes Actinistia - Coelacanths Dipnoi - Lungfishes Amphibia - Amphibians Reptilia - Reptiles Aves - Birds Mammalia - Mammals Chordates (phylum Chordata) include the vertebrates, together with... Orders Subclass Multituberculata (extinct) Plagiaulacida Cimolodonta Subclass Palaeoryctoides (extinct) Subclass Triconodonta (extinct) Subclass Eutheria (includes extinct ancestors)/Placentalia (excludes extinct ancestors) Afrosoricida Artiodactyla Carnivora Cetacea Chiroptera Cimolesta (extinct) Creodonta (extinct) Condylarthra (extinct) Dermoptera Desmostylia (extinct) Embrithopoda (extinct) Hyracoidea Insectivora Lagomorpha Litopterna (extinct) Macroscelidea Mesonychia (extinct) Notoungulata (extinct) Perissodactyla Pholidota Plesiadapiformes... Families Ailuridae Amphicyonidae† Canidae Felidae Herpestidae Hyaenidae Mephitidae Miacidae† Mustelidae Nandiniidae Nimravidae† Odobenidae Otariidae Phocidae Procyonidae Ursidae Viverravidae† Viverridae The diverse order Carnivora pronounced: (from Latin caro flesh, + vorare to devour) includes over 260 placental mammals. ... Genera Monachus (Monk Seals) Mirounga (Elephant Seal) Lobodon (Crabeater Seals) Leptonychotes Hydrurga (Leopard Seals) Ommatophoca Erignathus (Bearded Seals) Phoca Halichoerus (Gray Seals) Cystophora (Hooded Seals) The true seals or earless seals are one of the three main groups of mammals within the seal suborder, Pinnipedia. ... In biology, binomial nomenclature is the formal method of naming species. ... Theodore Nicholas Gill (1837 - 1914) was an American ichthyologist. ... 1866 (MDCCCLXVI) is a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar or a common year starting on Wednesday of the 12-day-slower Julian calendar. ... In biology, a species is the basic unit of biodiversity. ... Species M. leonina M. angustirostris There are two species of elephant seal. ... Binomial name Mirounga leonina Linnaeus,, 1758 The Southern Elephant Seal (Mirounga leonina) is one of two species of elephant seal (the other is the Northern Elephant Seal). ... Genera Monachus (Monk Seals) Mirounga (Elephant Seal) Lobodon (Crabeater Seals) Leptonychotes Hydrurga (Leopard Seals) Ommatophoca Erignathus (Bearded Seals) Phoca Halichoerus (Gray Seals) Cystophora (Hooded Seals) The true seals or earless seals are one of the three main groups of mammals within the seal suborder, Pinnipedia. ... subfamilies Otariidae Phocidae Odobenidae Pinnipeds are large marine mammals belonging to the Pinnipedia, a family (sometimes a suborder or superfamily, depending on the classification scheme) of the order Carnivora. ... In biological classification, family (Latin: familia, plural familiae) is 1) a rank or 2) a taxon in that rank. ... In general, a proboscis (from Greek pro before and baskein to feed) is an elongated appendage from the head of an animal. ... Female (left) and male Common Pheasant, illustrating the dramatic difference in form between the sexes Sexual dimorphism is the systematic difference in form between individuals of different sex in the same species. ... The term polygyny (Greek: poly many, gynaika woman) is used in related ways in social anthropology and sociobiology. ...

Contents


Range and Habitat

Adult male Northern elephant seal in dunes at Ano Nuevo mainland (courtesy of C. Michael Hogan)
Adult male Northern elephant seal in dunes at Ano Nuevo mainland (courtesy of C. Michael Hogan)

The Northern Elephant Seal lives in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, migrating as far north as Alaska and the shores of California and Baja California, where they come ashore to breed, give birth and moult, mostly on offshore islands. While the pelagic range covers an enormous span, there are only about seven principal breeding areas, four of which are on islands off the coast of California. There are two places on the California coast where colonies can be legally observed including Ano Nuevo State Park. Recently increasing numbers have been observed in the Gulf of California. Image File history File linksMetadata Download high resolution version (1200x902, 164 KB) Summary I, M Hogan took this photo and release all rights for use on wikipedia Licensing I, the creator of this work, hereby release it into the public domain. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high resolution version (1200x902, 164 KB) Summary I, M Hogan took this photo and release all rights for use on wikipedia Licensing I, the creator of this work, hereby release it into the public domain. ... Official language(s) English Capital Largest city Juneau Anchorage Area  Ranked 1st  - Total 663,267 sq mi  (1,717,854 km²)  - Width 808 miles (1,300 km)  - Length 1,479 miles (2,380 km)  - % water 13. ... Official language(s) English Capital Largest city Sacramento Los Angeles Area  - Total   - Width   - Length    - % water  - Latitude  - Longitude Ranked 3rd 158,302 sq mi  410,000 km² 250 miles  400 km 770 miles  1,240 km 4. ... Baja California is the northernmost state of Mexico. ... The Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez or Sea of Cortés; locally known in the Spanish language as Mar de Cortés or, much less frequently, Golfo de California) is a body of water that separates the Baja California Peninsula from the Mexican mainland. ...


History and status

Beginning in the 1700s Northern elephant seals were hunted extensively almost to extinction by the end of the 19th century, being prized for oil that could be made from their blubber, and the population may have fallen as low as 100 to 1000. Finding refuge in Mexican waters, by the turn of the century, there was only a sole surviving rookery, on Guadalupe Island, Mexico; and this colony was granted protection by the Mexican government. Since the early 20th century, they have been protected by law in both Mexico and in the United States. Subsequently the U.S. protection was strengthened after passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and numbers have now recovered to over 100,000. Alternative meaning: Nineteenth Century (periodical) (18th century — 19th century — 20th century — more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 19th century was that century which lasted from 1801-1900 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar. ... Remains of seventeenth century blubber cauldrons at the abandoned Dutch settlement of Smeerenburg in Svalbard, Norway This article is about the body tissue. ... Southeast coast of Guadalupe Island Guadalupe Island, or Isla Guadalupe, () is a volcanic island located 241 kilometers (150 miles) off the west coast of Mexicos Baja California peninsula and some 400 kilometers (250 miles) southwest of the border city of Tijuana in Baja California state, in the Pacific Ocean. ... (19th century - 20th century - 21st century - more centuries) Decades: 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s As a means of recording the passage of time, the 20th century was that century which lasted from 1901–2000 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar (1900–1999 in the... The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 prohibits, with certain exceptions, the take of marine mammals in U.S. waters and by U.S. citizens on the high seas, and the importation of marine mammals and marine mammal products into the U.S. Congress defines take as “harass, hunt, capture...

Harem on Ano Nuevo mainland
Harem on Ano Nuevo mainland

Nevertheless, there is a genetic bottleneck in the existing population, which could make it more susceptible to disease and pollution. In California, the population is continuing to grow at around 25 percent per year, and new colonies are being established; they are now probably limited mostly by the availability of haulout space. Numbers can however be badly affected by El Niño events and the resultant weather conditions, and the 1997-98 El Niño may have caused the loss of about 80 percent of that year's pups. Presently the Northern elephant seal is protected under the Federal Marine Mammal Act and under California law has a fully protected status. Image File history File linksMetadata Download high resolution version (2272x1704, 766 KB) Summary I, M Hogan]] took this picture and release all rights to wikipedia Licensing I, the creator of this work, hereby release it into the public domain. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high resolution version (2272x1704, 766 KB) Summary I, M Hogan]] took this picture and release all rights to wikipedia Licensing I, the creator of this work, hereby release it into the public domain. ... Chart of ocean surface temperature anomaly [°C] during the last strong El Niño in December 1997 El Niño and La Niña (also written in English as El Nino and La Nina) are major temperature fluctuations in surface waters of the tropical Eastern Pacific Ocean. ...


Feeding and behavior

The Northern Elephant Seal feeds on a wide range of over 30 fish and cephalopods, including squid, octopus, hagfish, ratfish and small sharks. They are nocturnal deep pelagic feeders famous for the long time intervals they remain underwater (Morejohn, 1970). This species dives to great depths while feeding, typically between 300 and 800 meters, and they can dive as deep as 1500 meters, with the female not attaining such a depth; moreover, the Northern elephant seal will generally not feed in depths of less than 200 meters (Condit, 1984). Suborders Myopsina Oegopsina Squids are the large, diverse group of marine cephalopods popular as food in cuisines as widely separated as Korean and Italian. ... Families 14 in two suborders, see text. ... Genera Eptatretus Myxine Nemamyxine Neomyxine Notomyxine Paramyxine Quadratus A hagfish is a marine chordate of the class Myxini, also known as Hyperotreti. ... Families Callorhynchidae Rhinochimaeridae Chimaeridae Other meanings, based on a fantastic animal, are at Chimera Chimaera is the common name of the species in the families Callorhynchidae, Rhinochimaeridae and Chimaeridae which all are closely related to sharks; they are also called ghost sharks. ... In cryptography, SHARK is a block cipher identified as one of the predecessors of Rijndael (the Advanced Encryption Standard). ... A nocturnal animal is one that sleeps during the day and is active at night - the opposite of the human (diurnal) schedule. ... The pelagic zone is the part of the open sea or ocean comprising the water column, i. ...

Juvenile Northern elephant seal resting in a tidepool.
Juvenile Northern elephant seal resting in a tidepool.

Average dive times are correspondingly long, around 20 minutes (again less for females), and they require very little time on the surface between dives (about three minutes). The deepest dive records are surprisingly held by female elephant seals and is currently at 1603 meters (nearly a mile) with a time of 119 minutes. Typically this species is observed singly in its pelagic environment, although on land there may be thousands in almost tangent harems Northern elephant seals, especially juveniles, are preyed on by great white sharks and sometimes also by orcas. While at sea from late spring to early winter, the Northern elephant seal stores vast amounts of food as blubber and also water oxidatively produced in fat stores to prepare for his long fast on land (Ortiz, 1978). Image File history File linksMetadata Download high resolution version (2272x1704, 1943 KB)Northern Elephant Seal resting in a tidepool. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high resolution version (2272x1704, 1943 KB)Northern Elephant Seal resting in a tidepool. ... Binomial name Carcharodon carcharias (Linnaeus, 1758) For information about the band, see Great White (band). ... Binomial name Orcinus orca Linnaeus, 1758 Orca range (in blue) The orca (Orcinus orca) is the largest member of the oceanic dolphin family. ...


In the summer, elephant seals undergo a "catastrophic moult," lasting about one month, during which they lose much of their fur and skin. They spend this time on beaches to preserve body heat, while they wait for the new fur to grow. During this time, elephant seals can be observed at a number of preserves on the California coastline, for example the Año Nuevo State Park and the Point Reyes National Seashore. However, observers must have a permit. This is because despite their ungainly appearance, bulls can move faster on land than a human being can run (for short distances). As generations of researchers have discovered the hard way, being charged by one is like being hit by a car; the elephant seal has no interest in attacking humans, but rather he is oblivious to an object blocking his attack on a male rival. Northern elephant seals hauled out on the beach at Año Nuevo State Park Año Nuevo State Park is a California state park located in San Mateo County. ... McClures Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, looking south on an overcast winters afternoon Point Reyes National Seashore is 70,000 acre (283 km²) park preserve located on the Point Reyes Peninsula in Marin county, California, USA. As a national seashore, it is maintained by the US National Park...

Fights between competing bulls can be brutal. This bull has extensive scarring as well as a fresh gash on its nose.
Fights between competing bulls can be brutal. This bull has extensive scarring as well as a fresh gash on its nose.

Image File history File linksMetadata Download high resolution version (2272x1704, 1285 KB) Summary Scars on a bull Northern Elephant Seal. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high resolution version (2272x1704, 1285 KB) Summary Scars on a bull Northern Elephant Seal. ...

Life Cycle

The Northern elephant seal returns to its terrestrial breeding ground in December and January, with the bulls arriving first. The bulls haul out on isolated or otherwise protected beaches typically on islands or very remote mainland locations. It is important that these beach areas offer protection from the winter storms and high surf wave action (Riedman, 1982). The bulls engage in dramatic fights of supremacy to determine which few bulls will achieve a territory and harem. While fights are not usually to the death, they are brutal and often with significant bloodshed and injury; however, in many cases of mismatched opponents, the younger, less capable males are simply chased away, often to upland dunes, where they will rest up and contemplate their martial strategy for the next year. Terrestrial literally means of the earth and is used in a variety of contexts: In biology and in the general sense, terrestrial means indicates ground-dwelling (compare aquatic). ... Look up bull in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...


After the males have secured their territorial position on the beach, the females arrive and somehow select an alpha bull for housekeeping. In this polygynous culture, a bull will typically have a harem of 30 to 100 cows. To assist him is the runner up in battle, the beta bull, who typically keeps watch at the perimeter of the harem for any belated challenges to the alpha bull's supremacy. In a lifetime an alpha bull could easily sire over 500 pups, whereas most bulls will never mate, due to the hierarchy established by combat. The lifetime reproduction potential of a female is about ten pups. The term polygyny (Greek: poly many, gynaika woman) is used in related ways in social anthropology and sociobiology. ... In traditional Arab culture, the harîm حريم (cf. ...


After arrival on shore males fast for three months, and females fast for five weeks during mating and nursing of her single pup. The gestation period is approximately eleven months. Pups nurse about four weeks and are weaned abruptly approximately two months before departing on their first journey to sea.


Opportunities to view the species

One elephant seal colony, about 7500 strong, makes a year-round home at Piedras Blancas, a short drive up the coast from San Simeon, California. Fenced observation areas give visitors a chance to get a safe, close-up view of the animals. A smaller colony of about 2000 exists at Ano Nuevo State Park, where guided walks take one within ten meters of elephant seals with no barriers. Docents are on hand at both locations to explain elephant seal behavior and the status of the local population. In the case of Ano Nuevo, most of the access is by a guided tour, where visitors will hike approximately one mile to visit the breeding areas. There is considerable on-going research being done on behavior of these animals, including significant amounts at UCSC. San Simeon (ZIP Code: 93452) is a settlement on the Pacific coast of San Luis Obispo County, California notable in two respects: Its position along Pacific Coast Highway is almost precisely halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, each of those towns being roughly 230 mi (370 km) away. ... The University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC or UC Santa Cruz) is a coeducational public university located in Santa Cruz, California. ...


References

The Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) is a partnership designed to provide consistent and reliable information on the taxonomy of biological species. ... March 18 is the 77th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (78th in leap years). ... 2006 (MMVI) is a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ...

Bibliography

  • C.L. Ortiz, D. Costa and B.J. LeBoeuf, Water and energy flux in elephant seal pups fasting under natural conditons, Physiol. Zool. 51:166-178
  • California Wildlife, Volume III, Mammals, ed, by David C. Zeiner, William F. Laudenslayer and Kenneth E. Meyer, published by the California Department of Fish and Game, Apr., 1990.
  • G.V. Morejohn and D.M. Beltz, Contents of the Stomach of an Elephant Seal, J. Mammal 51:173-174
  • M.L. Riedman and B.J. LeBoeuf, Mother-pup separation and adoption in northern elephant seals, Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 11: 203-213
  • R. Condit and B.J.LeBoeuf, Feeding Habits and Feeding Grounds of the Northern elephant seal, J. Mammal, 65:281-290

Orders Subclass Multituberculata (extinct) Plagiaulacida Cimolodonta Subclass Palaeoryctoides (extinct) Subclass Triconodonta (extinct) Subclass Eutheria (includes extinct ancestors)/Placentalia (excludes extinct ancestors) Afrosoricida Artiodactyla Carnivora Cetacea Chiroptera Cimolesta (extinct) Creodonta (extinct) Condylarthra (extinct) Dermoptera Desmostylia (extinct) Embrithopoda (extinct) Hyracoidea Insectivora Lagomorpha Litopterna (extinct) Macroscelidea Mesonychia (extinct) Notoungulata (extinct) Perissodactyla Pholidota Plesiadapiformes... In anatomy, the stomach (in ancient Greek στόμαχος) is an organ in the gastrointestinal tract used to digest food. ... Orders Subclass Multituberculata (extinct) Plagiaulacida Cimolodonta Subclass Palaeoryctoides (extinct) Subclass Triconodonta (extinct) Subclass Eutheria (includes extinct ancestors)/Placentalia (excludes extinct ancestors) Afrosoricida Artiodactyla Carnivora Cetacea Chiroptera Cimolesta (extinct) Creodonta (extinct) Condylarthra (extinct) Dermoptera Desmostylia (extinct) Embrithopoda (extinct) Hyracoidea Insectivora Lagomorpha Litopterna (extinct) Macroscelidea Mesonychia (extinct) Notoungulata (extinct) Perissodactyla Pholidota Plesiadapiformes...

External links

  • http://www.sealexperience.com
  • http://www.pinnipeds.org/species/nelephnt.htm
  • http://www.racerocks.com/racerock/eco/taxalab/ashleyc.htm
  • http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Mirounga_angustirostris.html
  • http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/jaap/elepseal.htm
  • http://essp.csumb.edu/eseal/noESlinks.html
  • http://www.elephantseal.org/

  Results from FactBites:
 
BBC - Science & Nature - Wildfacts - Northern elephant seal (284 words)
Male northern elephant seals are the second largest of all the pinnipeds (after the southern elephant seal).
Northern elephant seals are restricted to the north east Pacific Ocean.
The northern elephant seal was driven to near extinction due to hunting in the late 1800s.
Elephant Seal (370 words)
Origininally land animals, elephant seals have adapted to life in the sea by developing a thick layer of insulating fat, called blubber, that keeps them warm.
The northern elephant seal is found along the west coast of North America and breeds off the California coast.
The northern elephant seal was virtually wiped out by seal hunters at the end of the nineteenth century.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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