Would you like to have an inflatable nose?by Kool Cat KC on 04/11/12
I’m not sure I would, it might get in the way of catching things when I go outside; but male Northern Elephant seals use them to make themselves sound fierce. Looking at those huge dudes, I think they’re scary enough. They don’t need anything to make them more fierce. My human, Terry, says the noise they make reverberates inside the inflatable noise. What does reverberate mean? It means to roll around, the noise bounces from one side of the nose to the other, like an echo.
My human, Terry, met some Northern elephant seals last year during a trip to Big Sur, California. The seals visit Piedras Blancas beach, near Big Sur, twice a year. Lots of humans like to go watch them and get to know about them.
Northern elephant seals belong to the pinniped family. Pinniped is a word that comes from Latin. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, pinniped means “feather or fin foot.”
Of all the true seals in North America, Northern elephant seals are the largest. Males can be as long as 13 feet, and weigh as much as 4400 lbs., more than two tons. Females are three feet shorter and weigh about 1300 lbs. The males are the ones that have that long nose which gives them their name. I don’t, but some humans thinks that nose looks like an elephant trunk. Scientists call that a “proboscis,” do you know of any other animals that have a proboscis?
Folks that visit Piedras Blancas beach will see Northern Elephant seals most of the time, but they’ll see different ones. In September and October the pups that were born that year come to the beach. They are followed in November by the “teenagers,” and later, as December nears, the bulls return and so do the females. In January, February and March, the babies are born and the adults mate. The adults leave by the end of March. From April to August, they return to molt, but they don’t all return together. The females and the pups return to molt the first two months, and the males return to molt after them.
You’d think with all those seals on the beach that they live nearby, wouldn’t you? But they don’t. Adult males stay out at sea for eight months each year. They travel as much as 5,000 miles to the Aleutian Islands near Alaska twice each year. The females go in the same direction, but not quite as far. You’d also think that since there are many seals together on the beach, that they’d be social animals like elephants, or wolves, but they’re not. Once in the ocean, seals are loners, hunting for food. Males like sting rays, small sharks and other fish that live on the bottom of the ocean. Females mostly like to hunt for squid. Can you find any other animals that eat small sharks?
I don’t think I’d like to be a seal because when they come to land, they don’t eat. Sometimes they’re on land for more than a month. They can loose as much as 1/3 of their weight. Can you figure out how much that is for males? For females? What I like even less is what seal mothers do to their pups. They leave them alone! They make the pups teach themselves to swim. And to hunt. And to dive. Seals can dive between 1000 and 2000 feet. And its dark down there. How do they know when they have to come up? I guess their body tells them. By the time they become adults, they can dive for more than an hour, and they only take 2-4 minutes between dives. That’s a lot to teach yourself when you’re only one month old. I’m glad Mother Cat taught me all I need to know to be a cat. Do you know any other animals whose mother lets them take care of themselves very early in life? Look at some of my earlier blogs, you might find one.
Terry tells me she found the information about elephant seals at the following websites:
And a newsletter from Friends of the Elephant Seal
She took the awesome pictures of the seals in November of last year.