The Falkland Islands and South Atlantic
ELEPHANT SEAL Mirounga leonina

ELEPHANT SEAL Mirounga leonina

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Elephant Seals are the largest seals in the world. They are heavily built, bulky with long bodies and tiny flippers and a large head. Adult males have a distinctive inflatable proboscis which inflates and is a resonating chamber when bulls square up to each other. They frequently have scarred necks from combats. Immature males look much like females until their proboscis develops. They are very clumsy on land, moving much like a caterpillar and using their body for propulsion.

Males are massive, much larger than females; Length: adult males up to 5m (16.5 ft.), females up to 3m (10ft).

Pups have a wavy black coat when they are born and moult to silver or bright grey coat soon after weaning at about 3 weeks. They are up to 1.3m (4.25ft) long when they are born. Male Elephant seals live up to 15 years and females up to 23 years.

Elephant seals feed on a variety of deep water pelagic fish and squid caught on long deep dives. They were commercially hunted until near extinction from the Falklands elephanting in the 1800's, but have now recovered. On South Georgia sealing did not end until 1964, since then they have successfully re-established. 

Range: Circumpolar, South Georgia now hosts the world's biggest concentration of Elephant Seals but they are also on the Falklands and most Sub-Antarctic islands ranging to southern coasts of Argentina, especially at Peninsular Valdés, and down to Tierra del Fuego.

The Falkland Islands Marine Mammals Ordinance 1992 protects all marine mammals in all waters, from the coast to the edge of the economic exclusion zone.

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Sources include: Sea Mammals of the World-Randall R. Reeves, Brent S. Steware, Phillip J Clapham, James A Powell,Falkland Islands State of the Environment Report 2008 Otley H, Munro G, Clausen A, Ingham B. Wikipedia, Falklands Conservation, A Complete Guide to Antarctic Wildlife- Hadoram Shirihai, A Field Guide to the Wildlife of The Falkland Islands and South Georgia - Ian J Strange
Photographic credits: Jeremy Richards/, Fieldwork/, David Osborn/, Alison Dodd, Robert Maddocks
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