Elephant seals are the biggest type of seal in the world. It belongs to the family of true earless seals. There are two main types of elephant seal, the northern and southern seal. Their name refers to the hemisphere where each type of seal can be found. Take a look below for 25 more fun and weird facts about elephant seals.
1. Elephant seals live in warm coastal waters of Canada, Argentina, Mexico, South Africa and New Zealand.
2. Both northern and southern seals were almost hunted to extinction due to their meat and fatty oils. However, in the 19th century, they became protected by law which allowed them to repopulate.
3. They can be grey, light or dark brown to tan-colored. Their color depends on their gender, age and the season.
4. They can reach length between 10 to 20 feet and they can weigh between 2000 and 8800 pounds. Male elephant seals are 5 to 6 times bigger than females.
5. Elephant seals have a thick layer of blubber under their skin that helps them keep their body temperature stable when they’re in freezing waters.
6. They spend 80% of their life in the ocean and only 20% of their life on the coast. Despite its massive body, it can still move faster than humans on the sand dunes.
7. They have a large body, short front flippers with prominent nails and fully webbed hind flippers. Male elephant seals have elongated, inflatable, trunk like snouts, which is where they get their names from.
8. They’re known to spend almost 2 hours under water and dive to depths of 7834 feet. Female elephant seals spend less time under water than males.
9. They’re carnivores, which means that they mostly eat meat. Their diet consists of skates, rays, squids, eels, octopi and penguins.
10. Their natural predators are killer whales, large sharks and humans.
11. Their mating season takes place during the winter.
12. Male elephant seals have to fight each other to establish dominance and get the opportunity to make. 1 out 10 males is large and dominant enough to become the alpha or beta male, both of which get to reproduce.
13. They occupy territory, produce loud and roaring sounds using their trunks and protect the territory from other males. They don’t eat during this period, which usually lasts about 3 months.
14. Alpha male elephant seals have harems of 30 to 100 females. They’re usually able to successfully impregnate about 50 females per season.
15. Female elephant seals are pregnant for about 11 months and the pregnancy ends with a single offspring, which is born during the winter. The nursing period lasts about one month and the females don’t eat during this period.
16. Females reach sexual maturity between the ages of 4 and 5. They’re able to produce 10 offspring for their entire lifetime.
17. Male elephant seals reach sexual maturity between the ages of 4 and 6, but they rarely mate before the ages of 9 and 12.
18. They can survive between 20 and 23 years in the wild, with the females living longer on average.
19. Elephant seal offspring weigh around 50 kilograms when they’re born. Within 3 months, they will weigh up to 150 kilograms.
20. They’re highly social animals and will form large groups or harems for a months during mating season.
21. Elephant seals are one of the best living examples of sexual dimorphism. Males can be up to 10 times the weight of the reproductive females.
22. Only 2% to 3% of male elephant seals will actually breed, as only the alpha and beta males are allowed to breed.
23. The northern elephant seal was thought to be extinct in the 1800s, but from a small group of animals left, there are now an estimated population of 150,000 which live mainly around the Baja Gulf in Mexico and on the shores of Southern California.
24. It’s estimated that there are approximately 650,000 southern elephant seals left in the world. This is slightly more than just a few years ago, which indicates that the current conservation efforts and awareness campaigns are helping repopulate the species.
25. The southern elephant seal is the largest of all seals in the world. The males can weigh up to 8,500 pounds and the females can weigh up to 2,000 pounds.