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All About Elephant Seals: Mighty, Massive Mammals

by | Sep 5, 2022 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

How long can you hold your breath while swimming underwater? When searching for squid, fish and other favorite foods, elephant seals dive deeper than a mile while holding their breath for up to two hours without surfacing for air!

All About Elephant Seals - Adventures of MoMo and Finchy meet elephant seals in chapter 17. There are actually two species: northern and southern. While you’ll mainly find northern elephant seals in the warm ocean waters off California and on nearby offshore islands, southern elephant seals prefer much colder or frigid temperatures and live in Antarctic waters. They’re called “elephant” seals because adult males have a large nose that resembles an elephant’s trunk. 

How Massive are Elephant Seals?

Both of these gigantic mammals can seem pretty scary because of their size. Northern elephant seals (adult males) are typically 14 to 16 feet in length and weigh between 4,000 and 6,000 pounds. Adult females are usually nine to twelve feet long and weigh much less – between 900 and 1800 pounds. 

Southern elephant seals, however, are the largest of all seals. Adult males can be 15 to 20 feet long and weigh up to 8,800 pounds. Can you imagine being that huge? That’s about the size of a truck or cargo van. Adult females can be approximately nine feet in length and weigh 1800 pounds.

7 More Facts about Elephant Seals

Besides their gigantic size, they’re really incredible animals… 

  1. Have you ever taken a dive into a really cold swimming pool or lake? Your body goes into shock as a way of conserving oxygen and sends blood to your heart and other vital organs. It’s a reflex, the same one that elephant seals have when they dive into cold ocean water. But in elephant seals, this reflex is much stronger. Their metabolism, chemical changes that happen in your body that make you grow and stay healthy, slows down much more than in humans to make the best use of every breath of air.
  2. Elephant seals only live on land for two months of the year. They spend most of their time – roughly 80% – in the ocean, hunting for food.
  3. They have three times as much blood as humans. So their blood is richer in hemoglobin, which is the molecule (two atoms bonded together) that carries oxygen.
  4. Elephant seals are more protected from the extreme cold by their blubber, which is a thick layer of fat, rather than their fur.
  5. While resting on the beach, the seals really don’t eat and live off their blubber. They don’t even breathe much of the time to conserve water and energy.
  6. Male seals usually don’t live longer than 14 years while females may live beyond 20 years.
  7. When hunting for food in the ocean, they can travel 60 miles a day!

Have you ever seen an elephant seal in person? Did it seem friendly? What kinds of sounds did it make? Did you take a photo of one?  If so, please share your story and/or photo and we’ll post it on Mo’s social media pages along with your first name, age, and state where you live!

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