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Northern Elephant Seal males arrive to molt_17

Northern Elephant Seal males arrive to molt_17

The Northern Elephant Seal is one of two species of elephant seal (the other is the southern elephant seal). Elephant seals derive their name from their great size and from their large noses that resemble an elephant’s trunk, or proboscis, which is used in making extraordinarily loud roaring noises, especially during the mating competition. Males begin developing this enlarged nose when they reach puberty at about five years, and it is fully developed by eight to nine years.

 

Male elephant seals molt each year in late summer, growing new skin and hair, and shedding their entire top layer of skin and all of their fun at the same time. This is known as a catastrophic molt. 

 

The seals must haul out and stay ashore for nearly a month, unable to enter the water to feed because of temporary sensitivity to temperature change. Elephant seals are unique in this way as other seal species can replace their skin and fur gradually while in the water.

 

Elephant seals were aggressively hunted for their oil-rich blubber, and their numbers were once reduced to the brink of extinction. Fortunately, populations have rebounded under legal protections.

 

Extinction Risk: Least Concern (Population increasin