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Mirounga angustirostris

THE RACE ROCKS TAXONOMY
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Domain Eukarya
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Subphylum Vertebrata
Class Mammalia
Order Carnivora
Suborder Pinnipedia
Family Phocidae
Subfamily Monachinae
Genus Mirounga
Species angustirostris
COMMON NAME: Northern Elephant Seal
injury recovered elphanat seal female
Elephant seal male injured by boat prop. The recovered male elephant seal a year later. Female Elephant Seal
moulting elephant seal elseal
Female Elephant Seal Moulting

Male Elephant Seal video Elephant seals mating at Race Rocks February, 2006
56K version elephant seal sleep
Jan.31, 2009: An attempt to sort out the different individuals currently at Race Rocks Slash, the elephant seal breath holding while sleeping.
Births of Elephant seals at RR. 2009-2010
elephant seal birth
elephant seal pups at Race Rocks
Elephant seal birth 2010
Elephant seal Pup
January 30, 2009 : Baby Elephant seal born at Race Rocks to Bertha Feb 3, 2009 pups born on middle island. January 21, 2010: New elephant seal born on Middle Rock February 7, 2010: pup born to Bertha
Elephant seals at jetty Elephant seals at jetty
Elephant seals at jetty
juvenile male elephant seal
Two male elephant seals on the slipway of the Jetty, August 2005. Chris was transferring equipment from the boat to the island with the winch. The two elephant seals just watched the action. The two elephant seal males haul out on the sloped boat slipway. A juvenile male accompanies the old one.
juvenile male elephant seal juvenile male elephant seal old injured elephant seal old injured elephant seal
The eyes are clear on the young male. Note the size of the nose is much smaller than the mature male. This right eye of Slash was injured and is now blind. He still had some wounds healing. See videos of "Slash" above ( GF Photos)
Elephant seal on South Rock.
The images of this elephant seal have been taken by Angus Matthews, Dec 2002 Link to another file with pictures of a pair of elephant seals mating on the lawn at Race Rocks. Jan. 24, 2004
Elephant seal Elephant seal Elephant seal rear flippers Elephant seal rear flippers
Carol and Slash ( see video of injuries above) on the slipway. In 2006 Slash, the male elephant seal injured in 2003, has now recovered and regularly comes up on the slipway by the boathouse.. A picture from the posterior end. The hind flippers.
Elephant seal anus Elephant seal genitals Elephant seal nose Elephant seal nose
The anus The genital opening The injured eye which is now blind.
Elephant seal nose Elephant seal nose Elephant seal skin Elephant sealskin
A skin lesion from an old injury.(see wounds picture above from a year earlier) A patch of skin that did not shed.
Elephant seal claws Elephant seal claws Elephant seal claws Elephant seal claws
The right front flipper

note the pentadactyl structure just like humans. One toe nail is injured. These images were taken by Garry Fletcher
Update on "SLASH"
In July, 2008, after two other male elephant seals which were on Middle Rock this spring have moved on, Slash has moved up to the lawn to a favourite resting spot .The sleep apnea or breath holding video above was taken by GF on July 3 2008. I have opened a new file for Slash here.

OCCURRENCE of ELEPHANT SEALS at Race Rocks: This file is compiled from various sources to give an outline of the times of the year that elephant seals are present at Race Rocks.

Male

- At sexual maturity, 3-5 years, they develop a huge proboscis (nose). Hence the name, 'elephant seal'.

- By 6-9 years they are fully developed, including a shield of thick skin surrounding their chest and neck.

- With upper canines up to 15cm long, these bulls are well equipped for battle.

- They produce a drum-like sound from their large noses to threaten lesser males.

- Can dive to 2600 ft. (800 m).

- They live 12 -13 years.

Female

- Half the size of the bulls, the cows weigh in up to 1 tonne (2,200 lbs.) and measure up to 3 m (10 ft.) long.

- Sexually mature at 2-4 years, a cow usually first gives birth at 4 years.

- After giving birth, they may become aggressive towards each other and each other's pups. 

- Cows make a loud and long noise for threatening others.

- Can dive to 2000 ft. (600 m). 

- They live 15-18 years.

 

Range

The Northern Elephant Seal, the largest species of pinniped in the Northern Hemisphere, travels between the breeding beaches and rookeries (check these out here) of Mexico to the tip of Alaska. Some females have been reported as far west as Hawaii. 

Race Rocks is not a common stop for the 130,000 individuals out there today, because once they are old enough to be able to travel to BC, the seals spend most of their time fishing in the depths of the ocean. British Columbia citizens are most likely to see pups who've hauled ashore to molt, during September - November.

Diving Champions

The range of this pelagic animal, who spends 80-90% of its time underwater, includes 65 km (35 miles) offshore and has been known to dive to depths of 5000 ft., with an average underwater time of 20 minutes. Migrating further than any animal in the world, they have been known to travel up to 6000 miles.

Very Very Fat...

The elephant seal's main predators are sharks and orcas, the only marine animals that can bite through it's many centimeters of subcutaneous fat. Their fat, streamlined bodies are the best diving enabled of all animals, and it keeps them warm, too. Such low metabolism tissue is great for storage of energy and nutrients, especially during their fasts (of up to 3 months, sometimes losing 1,500 lbs.!) during the mating and molting seasons.

How do they get so fat?

From eating eels, skates, rays, squid, octopi, red crabs, pacific hake and small sharks. This carnivorous marine mammal dives to the bottom of the ocean to retrieve its meals. At night, M. angustirostris eats from the depths of the mesopelagic zone, picking on organisms that travel upwards at night. Thus, dives are shallower and it's easier to see the prey because most fish with such behavior are bioluminescent. 

Seals swallow their food in large chunks rather than chewing it. While on land, seals are hydrated by their own fat, and at sea they get the liquids they need from their food so they don't have to drink water.

  The Life of an Elephant Seal

There are 7 known rookeries in Southern California and Mexico, where these giant marine mammals haul out onto the beaches each December-March to give birth and breed.

The males are the keeners, arriving ashore one month ahead of the females, who birth 6 days after arriving on the beaches. Pups weigh from 30 kg (65 lbs.) and are about 4 feet (1.25 m) in length. Most of this specie's time is spent lounging on the beach, while males fight for dominance. 

The females nurse their pups for 28 days, at which point they suddenly leave and the pup is forced to be weaned after tripling its birth weight. Four days before leaving, the females breed with the dominant males. They are pregnant when they leave, but the embryo does not implant itself for another three months, to ensure that they give birth 6 days after arriving ashore the same time next year.

Finally, the pups are left behind to fend for themselves. They travel in packs called "pods" for the first 12 weeks of their lives, learning to swim in shallow waters before heading to the continental slope to forage for food.

M. Angustirostris at Race Rocks

    Try these racerocks.com references to learn more about the northern elephant seal in B.C.'s only Marine Protected Area.

    1. Elephant Seals Around Southern Vancouver Island by Robin W.Baird
    2. Marine Mammals in British Columbia by Peter F. Olesiuk and Michael A. Bigg

A Conservation Success

    In the 19th century, these beasts were hunted to near extinction. What for? Their fat was used in lamp oil (they can produce 325 L of fine oil). Now, the estimated population of 100 (1910) has grown to estimates of 130,000, with the help of conservationists and protected habitats. These animals are no nuisance to fishermen in B.C., so the only true threat remaining is the destruction of their habitat by tourism and development.

A major problem remaining for these animals is simply their privacy and the ignorance of humans. A few years ago, a juvenile animal hauled ashore to molt on a Metchosin beach. Its sick-like appearance worried a passerby who called the SPCA. As a result a decision was made to call in an officer of the local federal fisheries office to destroy the animal. The advice of local residents who yearly saw the moulting process as a natural event was ignored and the animal was shot. It is time for humans to leave these animals alone when they are moulting on local beaches, and not to intervene in ignorance.

 General Appearance & Taxonomy

As a member of the Phocid, or true seal, family, M. angustirostris has no external ear flaps and flops on its belly to move around on land. The black coat that pups have at birth is molted at weaning to reveal a silver gray coat, which turns silvery brown in a year's time. Their broad, round faces are complimented well by very large, round, cow-like eyes. 

A close cousin of the northern elephant seal is the southern elephant seal, or Mirounga leonina. The northern elephant seal is only two thirds the size of this species, the only other member of its genus. The southern version can be found in the waters of Antarctica, off places such as Argentina and New Zealand. 

References
Elephant Seals by Ron and Cathy

This file is provided as part of a collaborative effort by the students, faculty and volunteers of Lester B. Pearson College
Dec. 2001
Ashley Crane PC yr 27
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