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Also known as sea elephants, elephant seals (genus Mirounga) are large aquatic mammals residing in sub-Antarctic regions. They are very sociable animals and get their name from their massive size and the male’s trunk-like snout.
See the fact file below for more information on the elephant seals or alternatively, you can download our 20-page Elephant Seal worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
TAXONOMY AND ETYMOLOGY
- The elephant seal is classified in the genus Mirounga under the suborder Pinnipedia. It has two recognized species in existence – the Mirounga angustirostris (northern elephant seal) and the Mirounga leonina (southern elephant seal).
- British zoologist John Edward Gray established the genus Mirounga in the year 1827. The term is said to have been derived from the word miouroung, which means “seal” in an Australian Aboriginal language.
- The two species of elephant seals can be distinguished from each other through various features. Male adult northern elephant seals or bulls can reach 4.3 to 4.8 meters in length and can weigh up to about 2,500 kilograms.
- Elephant seals, similar to other types of seals, are generally characterized by having short limbs and no external ears. However, they are significantly larger than other seals.
- Male southern elephant seals can be as long as 6 meters and can reach up to 4,000 kilograms in weight, while female seals or cows measure around 3 meters and weigh 900 kilograms on average.
- The northern elephant seal displays a yellowish or gray-brown color, while the southern elephant seal is blue-gray. Adult males of the northern species also tend to have larger snouts compared to the southern species.
- Elephant seals have the ability to hold their breath for more than 100 minutes, enabling them to spend about 80% of their lives in the ocean.
- These animals can dive up to 1,550 meters below the surface of the ocean, and they only spend 2-3 minutes on land in between their dives.
- They also undergo a molting period for about a month during which their outer skin and hair peel off in large patches. Due to the thinner layer of covering from the molting process, these animals are more susceptible to colder temperatures. Thus, they have to stay on land until their new skin regrows.
- The northern species of elephant seals are non-migratory, which means that they do not leave their territories when the seasons change.
- On the other hand, southern elephant seals spend their winters at sea, although they also molt on land.
HABITAT AND DIET
- The two species of elephant seals differ in their habitat based on location. The northern elephant seals occupy areas in the Pacific coast, while the southern seals can be found throughout the sub-Antarctic regions.
- Elephant seals hunt for their prey during their dives into the sea. Their typical diet includes a variety of sea creatures, such as squid, eel, octopus, rays, and large fish.
- Their stomachs contain gastroliths that help grind the food since elephant seals lack teeth suitable for breaking down their food.
- In the spring, male elephant seals arrive at locations suitable for breeding. They use their large proboscis or snouts to make vocal noises in order to determine who will be the dominant male. This is often accompanied by fighting and altering their postures.
- When the female seals arrive, the more dominant males will already have secured their places in the breeding grounds.
- The females will then cluster around the alpha males to create harems, which consist of up to 50 female seals. The less dominant male seals will then be left with the task of helping the alpha males by preventing other males from mating with the females in his harem.
- Each female seal’s pregnancy lasts a total of 11 months, so mothers can only give birth to one brownish black pup each year.
- The birthing process only takes a few minutes. The mother and pup form an instant connection because of their unique smell and sound. Mothers will then nurse their pups for up to 28 days.
- Elephant seals are listed under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as being of least concern. This means that both species of elephant seals are neither threatened nor endangered.
- Nonetheless, elephant seals are still prone to entanglement in marine debris, collisions of sea vessels, and interactions with fishing industries.
- Fortunately, both species of elephant seals are protected in all countries where they can be found.
Elephant Seal Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the elephant seals across 20 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Elephant Seal worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the elephant seals (genus Mirounga) which are large aquatic mammals residing in sub-Antarctic regions. They are very sociable animals and get their name from their massive size and the male’s trunk-like snout.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Elephant Seal Facts
- Meet the Elephants of the Sea
- Fact Check
- Elephant Seal Anatomy
- Elephant Seal of the North
- Two Species
- Draw My Home
- Think Tank
- Tell Me More
- Two Pinnipeds
- Elephant Seal Recap
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Link will appear as Elephant Seal Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, October 1, 2020
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.