Northern elephant seal

One of the largest pinnipeds in the world; lives in the eastern Pacific ocean


A marine mammal of significant size and strength, it undergoes a fascinating transformation throughout its life. At birth, these seals are cloaked in striking black fur, which serves as their initial coat. This dark pelage is temporary, however, as they soon experience their first molting. During this process, the pups shed their initial fur, revealing a light silver coat underneath, marking their first major transition in life. As they continue to grow and mature into adulthood, their fur undergoes another change, evolving into shades of grey or dark brown. This coloration helps adult seals blend into their natural environments, providing camouflage against predators and prey alike.

Adult males of the species are particularly notable for their distinctive physical feature: a large, inflatable proboscis. This trunk-like nose is not merely a striking visual characteristic but serves a critical function during the mating season. The proboscis can amplify the sound of their roars, which are used in competitions among males to establish dominance and attract females. These roaring contests are a key aspect of their breeding behavior, with the loudest and most dominant males often securing the right to mate with females in the area.

The story of the Northern elephant seal is also a powerful testament to the impact and importance of conservation efforts. In the early 20th century, these seals were hunted to near extinction, primarily for their blubber, which was a valuable commodity at the time, used in oil lamps and other products. This relentless hunting dramatically reduced their numbers, and by 1910, it was estimated that fewer than 100 individuals remained, pushing the species to the brink of disappearance.

Over the decades, efforts have led to a remarkable rebound in the population of Northern elephant seals. From the edge of extinction, their numbers have surged to approximately 200,000 individuals today, a recovery that mirrors the population levels before the onset of hunting.


Population est.
Pacific ocean
Gulf of California
Japan Sea
United States

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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