One of the largest mainland breeding colonies in the world for the northern elephant seal is at Año Nuevo State Park. The first stage of their migratory journey is made all the more remarkable by the fact that males and females actually follow different migratory courses, with each sex venturing to a different foraging destination. They’re going about their lives—feeding, nesting, birthing—and creating maps of their existence. Weaned pups typically spend nearly 2 years away before returning to their breeding colonies. Dive-recorder devices have traced northern elephant seals diving to depths in excess of 4,000 feet (1,220 meters)! Because the males’ route to their feeding grounds curves along the continental shelf, whereas the females’ route generally is more direct, males swim roughly 1,000 to 2,000 miles (about 1,600 to 3,200 km) further than females each year. The northern elephant seal (Mirounga angustirostris) is one of two species of elephant seal (the other is the southern elephant seal).It is a member of the family Phocidae (true seals).Elephant seals derive their name from their great size and from the male's large proboscis, which is used in making extraordinarily loud roaring noises, especially during the mating competition. Males and females travel to different hunting grounds and dine on different prey, perhaps to meet differing dietary needs. The species was protected under Mexican and U.S. law in the early 20th century and since then has made a remarkable comeback. Depth recorders are more useful because they track the seal precisely and send data back automatically. Perhaps because they do spend so much time underwater, those of us on land know very little about how the northern elephant seal (Mirounga angustirostris) manages to find the right migratory course in the first place, much less stick to that course and reach its final destination. During this 21000 kilometre journey, these… Much more agile in their ocean environment, an elephant seal moves on land with considerable effort, by using its front flippers and belly. Talk about a class act. All that traveling adds up to a lot of time spent underwater, which would seem to provide ample opportunity to lose track of where they’re headed. The male elephant seal "was an errant migrant that swam northward from the South American coast into the Mississippi River system via the Gulf of Mexico, and eventually stranded upriver in Indiana where [he] was killed or scavenged by Indigenous people," the researchers described. Northern fur seals are members of the "eared seal" family (Otariidae). Tagging is less reliable and only used if the seal is spotted by a person. Although both genders travel long distances to feed, they both follow different migration routes. They spend most of the year in the ocean. This is because male and female northern elephant seals feed on different kinds of prey. ELEPHANT-SEAL MOVEMENTS Seal 91 51 0: days 54 -128 45 40 35 longitude longitude FIGURE1: The top graph is the track of one seal heading from an island off Santa Barbara to a region in the Northwest Pacific and return.The bottom graph is a great-circle route, for reference. In 1981, the first breeding pair was discovered near Chimney Rock. After the long migration from California to feeding areas near Alaska, the juvenile seals may have needed to haul out to rest before continuing their migration or foraging activities.” The northern elephant seal is the largest of the “true” seal in the Northern Hemisphere. Northern elephant seals travel into the North Pacific twice a year, in a pattern called a double migration. They eat about 100 pounds of fish per day. Sexual segregation in foraging is predicted from the great size disparity of male and female northern elephant seals, ... Migration distance and estimated mass gain were positively correlated with male size, and individual males returned to the same area to forage on subsequent migrations. This post originally appeared in NaturePhiles on TalkingScience.org. The northern elephant seal 034259 started near the coast of San Francisco, California on March 18th, 2011. The females, on the other hand, generally forage a little ways south of the gulf. Northern elephant seals can be found in California and Baja California, though they prefer to frequent offshore islands rather than the North American mainland. The northern elephant seal is the second largest seal in the world, after the southern elephant seal. Find out more about this amazing Currents. Northern elephant seals were almost hunted to extinction for their blubber oil in the 19th century, only an estimated 100-1,000 individuals on the Mexican Isla de Guadalupe managing to escape the hunt. They return to their rookeries in winter to breed and give birth. In the northern elephant seals migration route, it is clearly displayed that the route is fairly deep. A light level geolocator, light-level logger or GLS (global location sensor) is essentially a lightweight, electronic archival tracking device, usually used in bird migration research to map migration routes, identify important staging areas, and sometimes provide additional ecological information. In the 1880's northern elephant seals were thought to be extinct, harvested by shore whalers and sealers for their blubber. In total, over the course of a year, elephant seals migrate 12,000 to 14,000 miles! San Simeon boasts the largest free viewing area of Elephant Seals in California. Much more agile in their ocean environment, an elephant seal moves on land with considerable effort, by using its front flippers and belly. The oil obtained from elephant seals is second in quality only to the sperm whale. Distribution and Migration of Southern Elephant Seals. A small group of between 20-100 elephant seals that bred on Guadalupe Island, off Baja California, survived the ravages of the seal hunts. The largest males, which may weigh as many as 5,000 pounds (about 2,270 kg)—several thousand pounds more than females—often swim the farthest. Males tend to stay tucked in along the continental shelf, tracking their favorite food—bottom-dwelling fish, small sharks, and rays. In contrast, females, which feed mainly on squid, swim further into the open ocean, in pursuit of their slippery prey. 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