Monday, April 05, 2010

Elephant Seals (Day 2)

The end of our drive along the coast through Big Sur had us arriving at Piedras Blancas to see the elephant seals. These amazing animals were hunted to near-extinction for their oil-rich blubber but they are now protected and have made a remarkable comeback. In fact, during the 1880's, they were thought to be extinct, but a small group of 20-100 had survived that bred on Guadalupe Island off of Baja California. (All of my information is from the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce's site.)

When we visited, the moms had already given birth and left their weaned pups. The weaned pups are called "weaners" and they had formed what is known as "weaner pods."

As these pups lay in groups together, they would push and shove each other for the best sleeping position. The disturbed seals would then scream and sometimes give a little nip at the ones who were disturbing their rest.

As I mentioned, most of the elephant seals we saw were the weaned pups. However, we did see about 8 adult males, though some were immature males. As you can see from this photo of a sign, the males and females are "sexually dimorphic", that is the males are much larger than the females. The male has a chest shield, sharp teeth, and a large proboscis while the female looks much different.

Here's one of the males we saw. You can especially see his chest shield and large proboscis.

These two males were the most watched seals on the beach. I believe these are a pair of "sub-adult males" who are practicing sparring which is a skill they will need when they are old enough to mate. You can tell they are young, I think, because they don't have the chest shield and they don't have the enlarged proboscis which comes with puberty at around 4 years of age.

I had to share this photo of a shedding elephant seal. (gross!?) I think this was the only seal we saw shedding, and we thought she really stood out!

We were also suprised to see a lot of rabbits hopping around near the beach! I hope you enjoyed this "lesson" on elephant seals! This is another reason I blog... I learned more about elephant seals while writing this post then I did while visiting them! Enjoy!


Donna said...

Oh My Gosh, These pictures are just fantastic! You were able to get such close up shots of the seals - Amazing!
Thanks for posting them - They are just too cute : )

Katie said...

Thanks for posting these. It is very interesting. I love following your blog just don't comment very often.

Cindy said...

How about adding this to the CM Carnival I'm hosting next Tuesday??

Jamie {See Jamie blog} said...

I've never seen elephant seals in real life! Love that photo of the bunny, too.

And isn't it neat how much you can learn from homeschooling and from blogging? :)

Rhonda said...

Such wonderful information. Thank you so much for sharing all of the photos. That seal that is shedding just looks nasty. Ewwww! I enjoyed seeing all of the younger seals. They are so cute. I had to get my girls to come and take a look. They really enjoyed looking at the photos also.

lahbluebonnet said...

Yea, more great pictures! I loved the sea lions and walrus at SeaWorld next door to our San Antonio house! We got our picture taken standing next to Clyde. I'd love to see them or their "cousins" in the wild. That's one reason why I blog in detail too. If I write it I'll remember it better. And if I forget it, I know where to look it up!

Robin said...

The shedding seal scared me because until I continued reading I thought he had been burned somehow.
It's funny because I learn so much while blogging too. I don't want to relay false information so I always have to double check by using the internet. And I always learn something else. Plus, I have links to share.
This was a great post! Your learning has educated us all. Thanks!

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