Mediterranean monk seal

The world’s rarest pinniped species; in 2015, it is estimated that less than 700 individuals survived in 3 to 4 isolated subpopulations

Vasilis drosakis

The Mediterranean Monk Seal is one of the world’s most endangered marine mammals, inhabiting the Mediterranean Sea and parts of the North Atlantic Ocean. This species is distinguished by its small, short hairs covering its skin, which aid in hydrodynamics and warmth. The coloration of these seals varies between genders, with males typically exhibiting black fur and females displaying dark grey coats. Both sexes have a lighter shade of fur on their bellies, providing a slight camouflage in the aquatic environment. The snout of the Mediterranean Monk Seal is notably flat, broad, and short, characteristic of the species, and their flippers, while relatively short, are equipped with small claws that aid in navigation and feeding.

Mediterranean Monk Seals are adept at foraging in various marine environments, capable of diving up to depths of 250 meters (820 feet). However, they prefer feeding in shallow coastal waters where their agility and speed can be fully utilized. Their remarkable swimming skills allow them to outmaneuver predators, including sharks, highlighting their prowess in the water. As opportunistic predators, their diet encompasses a wide range of marine life, including octopuses, squids, eels, and various fish species.

Historically widespread throughout the Mediterranean Sea, the population of the Mediterranean Monk Seal has dramatically declined due to human activities, including hunting, habitat destruction, and incidental bycatch in fishing gear. These seals now occupy a fraction of their former range, with small, fragmented populations found in secluded and inaccessible coastal areas or caves, which they use for resting, molting, and breeding.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Atlantic Ocean
2015
Mediterranean Sea
350-450
Official estimate
EN
2015
Subpopulation
Black sea
2015
Albania
2015
Possibly Extinct
Algeria
2015
Presence Uncertain
Bosnia And Herz.
Official estimate
EX
Extinct 20th century
Bulgaria
Official estimate
EX
Last observed 1995
Cape Verde
2015
Possibly Extinct, Origin Uncertain
Croatia
2015
Cyprus
2015
Egypt
2015
Possibly Extinct
France
Official estimate
EX
Extinct 20th century
France
2015
Possibly Extinct: Corsica
Gambia
2015
Possibly Extinct, Origin Uncertain
Georgia
Official estimate
EX
Extinct locally, Origin Uncertain
Greece
300–400
Official estimate
EN
2015
Aegean Sea
Israel
2015
First beached 2023
Italy
2015
Possibly Extinct
Lebanon
2015
Possibly Extinct
Libya
2015
Possibly Extinct
Malta
Official estimate
EX
Extinct 1960s
Mauritania
2015
Montenegro
Official estimate
EX
Extinct 1970s
Morocco
2015
Presence Uncertain
Portugal
Official estimate
EX
Extinct 20th century
Portugal
2015
Madeira
Romania
Official estimate
EX
Extinct 20th century
Russia
Official estimate
EX
Extinct 20th century
Senegal
Official estimate
EX
Extinct 20th century
Spain
Official estimate
EX
Extinct 1980s
Spain
2015
Possibly Extinct: Baleares
Syria
2015
Possibly Extinct
Tunisia
2015
Possibly Extinct
Turkey
100
Official estimate
EN
2015
Subpopulation
Ukraine
0
Official estimate
EX
Extinct 20th centtury

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No