Understanding the feeding behaviour of “Northern Elephant seals”

What is the News?

Scientists have conducted the most thorough study of the unique feeding behaviour of northern elephant seals, especially focusing on the female elephant seals.

About the study:
  • The Northern Elephant seals are famous for their large breeding assembling. So the reproductive behaviour of them is well studied. But the female Seals are not observed in Coastal areas after breeding. So, the scientists know only a little about feeding behaviour.
  • To solve this, the scientists tracked 48 female elephant seals from Año Nuevo State Park in California. (this site is an important breeding colony).

Key Findings:

  • Elephant Seals were found to spend more than 20 hours every day – and sometimes a full 24 hours in continuous deep-diving to feeding. They feed on multitudes of small fish instead of larger prey favoured by other deep-diving marine mammals.
    • This is being done to gain the body fat essential for successful reproduction and insulation in the frozen depths.
  • Female elephant seals are only about one-third of the size compared to male elephant seals. So, they hunt smaller fish in a deep-sea region. On the other hand, male elephant seals feed only in coastal waters.
Elephant Seals:
  • Elephant seals are the largest seals on earth. They get their name from the prominent noses of the males that resemble an elephant’s trunk.
  • Features: Male Elephant seals grow to over 13 feet long and weigh up to 4,500 pounds. Females are slightly smaller, measuring up to 10 feet in length and weighing in at 1,500 pounds.
  • Diet: Elephant seals eat rays, skates, fish, squid, and sharks that live near the bottom of the ocean.

Species: There are two species of elephant seals:

Northern Elephant Seals:
  • Northern elephant seals are found across the Pacific coast of the United States, Canada and Mexico.
  • They generally breed and give birth in California and Baja California. That too usually on offshore islands from December to March. They fast during mating season, losing perhaps a third of their body weight.
Southern Elephant Seals:
  • Southern elephant seals are the largest of all seals. They live in sub-Antarctic and Antarctic waters that feature brutally cold conditions.
  • But these regions are rich in the fish, squid, and other marine foods these seals enjoy.
  • Southern elephant seals breed on land but spend their winters in the frigid Antarctic waters near the Antarctic pack ice.

Source: The Hindu

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