Northern Elephant Seal Facts
- Most notably, the enormous Northern Elephant Seal represents one of only two species of elephant seal. While it remains slightly the smaller of the two, collectively the elephant seal forms the largest on earth.
- Like its counterpart, the Southern Seal, it draws its common name from not one, but two sources. Firstly, its great size once led to its comparison to an elephant. Secondly, is its unique proboscis.
- Quite unfortunately, the magnificent animal was hunted nearly to extinction. This occurred during the 18th and 19th centuries. Due to legal protection, its numbers have managed to rebound significantly.
- Further, the first steps toward this goal happened in 1922. But, the passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1972 greatly enhanced its rate of recovery. Due to this, the IUCN now lists it as a Species of Least Concern.
Northern Elephant Seal Physical Description
Firstly, the truly enormous Northern Elephant Seal displays a significant degree of sexual dimorphism. As a result the males typically attain a much larger size than the females. In fact, males can be as much as 2-3 times the size of the females.
That occurs because the much larger males of the species typically reach a length of between 13 – 16 ft (4 – 5 m). Meanwhile, the relatively petite females usually only attain a body length of 8.2 – 11.8 ft ( 2.5 – 3.6 m).
Furthermore, the difference in weight remains even more pronounced. As a result, males average 3,300 – 5,100 lb (1,500 – 2,300 kg). But the females, with a wider range of weight variation, only average 880 – 1,980 lb (400 – 900 kg).
However, both genders of the amazing species present essentially the same color patterns. As adults, this begins as a dray or dark silver. But, as the individual ages, this changes to varying shades of brownish-yellow or tan.
But, its most distinguishing feature remains quite obvious to the eye. This consists of the extremely large proboscis. Yet, only the male develops this feature, further distinguishing them from the females.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Carnivora
- Family: Phocidae
- Genus: Mirounga
- Species: M. angustirostris
Northern Elephant Seal Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
First of all, the remarkably impressive Northern Elephant Seal primarily inhabits the eastern regions of the Pacific Ocean. The majority of its population, however, lives along the west coast of North America.
Further, most live relatively close to shore. Its greatest population concentration exists in a range beginning along the coast of Oregon, in the United States. It also extends to a region offshore of Mexico, and includes the waters around many islands.
In addition, and incredibly, the genders actually have completely different feeding habits. Mature males generally consume a wide variety of prey, but hunt on the ocean bottom. Meanwhile, mature females hunt prey swimming in the open ocean.
In turn, mature adults of the Northern Elephant Seal have few natural predators. That occurs due to its great size. However, the Orca and the Great White Shark occasionally hunt it. But, even these apex predators rarely attack adults.