Term Paper: Coastal Animals Sea Turtles (Seaworld

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[. . .] They often opportunistically feed. They follow trawlers. Fishermen often feed dolphins. Unlike bottlenoses, speckled dolphins are not as sociably disposed to man. They do not approach boats and it is difficult for humans to approach them.

There is evidence that speckled dolphins will typically become friendlier over time. There is anecdotal evidence that a dolphin Scar and her calf Junior became friendly with locals in a costal town. A local dog was often seen swimming with the two dolphins.

Speckled dolphins swim in small groups often not exceeding seven. But groups of more than twenty-five have also been observed. In terms of other aspects such as mating, calving and sexual dimorphism, they are much

Elephant Seals

Seals are pinipeds, where the limps have evolved into a flipper like appendage. The largest of the seals is the elephant seal. Its binomial name is Mirounga angustirostris

Elephant seals can grow up to six meters long and can weight up to six thousand pounds. They are true behemoths. The flippers give them the advantage to swim. Elephant seals are also great divers. They can dive to more than 5000 feet deep. Among mammals, they also have large lung capacities. They can remain submerged for up to twenty minutes. Remaining underwater for more than 80 minute is not rare. (Parks.Ca, 2004)

Elephant seals are adapted to spending more time in water. They are diurnal creatures. They are often found lying on beaches. It is on beaches where they mate. The fight between males for potential females is legend. They have a proboscis or a trunk like appendage. This is a foot long. It curves inwards towards the mouth. There is evidence to indicate that their roars in defense of when calling a mate is pronounced because of this trunk. The trunk is what gives these seals the name of elephant seal. They also have tusks, which are large canines that almost half a foot, some of which remains exposed below the mouth line. The trunk begins to appear when an elephant reaches sexual maturity. This occurs around five years. The trunk is fully grown by the time the elephant seal is nine years old. An elephant seal will go without food for the entire mating season. Alpha males, after fending off rivals are known to mate with up to fifty females. Females are mush smaller. They also do not have the tell tale trunk. Most females give birth by the time they are four years old.

Their nemeses are killer whales and large sharks. Elephant seals feed on squid and smaller fish and even small sharks. Elephant seals because of their size have large quantities of blubber. Like whales, elephant seals were hunted to almost extinction because of this blubber. These animals are now on the endangered species, which offer them protection against potential decimation. (SealExperience, 2004)

As mentioned above elephant seals spend most of their time above in water. They migrate long distances of over six thousand miles. They visit land to molt and to mate. The mating rituals and the birthing processes occur in organized groups called as rookeries. The inhabitants are harems: many females attached to one male.

The prize female often gets the position in the center of the harem where she and her calves can be ensured the best protection by the alpha male. Gestation for elephant seals is about one year. Males arrive at rookeries between November and December. In January, pregnant females begin to arrive. Soon they give birth. By February, elephant seals mate. The females leave the rookeries soon after. The males leave about a month later. The cubs are left to fend for themselves. And by the end of May the cubs are sufficiently strong to venture out on their own.

Most elephant seals return to their breeding sites to molt. This process takes almost a month. The seals then leave. And the young seals leave later. In any case, elephant seals are not afraid of humans. Neither are attacks on humans very frequent. They are therefore very approachable and easy to study.

Mirounga angustirostris is the name for the Northern Elephant Seal. It is relatively smaller compared to its southern hemisphere cousin, the souther elephant seal (Mirounga leonine). The latter is often found on the coasts of Antarctica and Argentina. (PBS, 2004)

Leopard Seal

The leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx) is also known as the sea leopard. What it does not have in size (when compared to the elephant seal), it more than makes up for in ferocity. It is the most aggressive of known seals and it attacks and kills other seals -- the only seal known to do that. Leopard seals are seen in sub-Antarctic waters. They can grow up to ten feet long and weight more than seven hundred and fifty pounds. Their chief source of food is fish, squid, krill and penguins. Penguins are expert swimmers. Leopard seals often wait under icy outcrops for penguins to jump into the water before nabbing them. (AntarcticConnection, 2004)

Leopard seals are muscular. They have a body that is well adapted to preying on smaller animals. Their teeth are particularly strong and like most animals of prey are adapting to slicing and cutting through skin and flesh. Their bodies are muscular and built such that in water they can force their bodies into aerodynamic conformations. This makes them expert and very fast swimmers. Their skin is also impermeable to cold. The skin helps to slide through the water with ease. Leopard seals have dark brownish yellow topside. Their undersides are of the same color, though much paler. Their throats are white in color with dark brown spots.

Because of their aggressive demeanors and habitation in forbidding locales, leopard seals have not been extensively studied. They are less sociable. They are mostly solitary. They prefer to spend most of their time in water. Their only forays on land are during the breeding seasons. As opposed to the large rookeries and harems of elephant seals, leopard seals are known to live in pairs of threesomes. Females dig a hole in the ice where they give birth to one pup. Like humans, leopard seals also gestate for a period of nine months. Females are known to protect their pups until they can fend for themselves.

Leopard seals often become meals for killer whales. Other than that, one might consider that leopard seals are fairly high up on the food chain in that region. Leopard seals can live for up to twenty-six years.

They are not aggressive towards humans. There is only one known incident where a young scientist was attacked, pulled under and drowned. Most divers in those areas exhibit caution and this caution is rewarded. One scientist reported that he studied sea leopards close enough that he could touch them.


Amador, Armando. Indo-Pacific Hump-Backed Dolphin. Il-Sci-Acad-Sci.org, 1999. Accessed August 6, 2004. Available at http://www.il-st-acad-sci.org/mammals/whale009.html.

AntarcticConnection. Leopard Seals: Description & Characteristics. Wildlife of Antarctica, 2004. Accessed August 7, 2004. Available at http://www.antarcticconnection.com/antarctic/wildlife/seals/leopard.shtml.

Parks.Ca. Elephant Seals. California State Parks, 2004. Accessed August 5, 2004. Available at http://www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=1115.

PBS. Southern Elephant Seal. PBS.org, 2004. Accessed August 8, 2004. Available at http://www.pbs.org/kratts/world/ant/seal/.

SealExperience. Northern Elephant Seal. Seal Experience, 2004. Accessed August 6, 2004. Available at http://www.sealexperience.com/.

SeaWorld. Bottlenose Dolphins. SeaWorld, 2002. Accessed August 7, 2004. Available at http://www.seaworld.org/infobooks/Bottlenose/home.html.

____. Sea Turtles. Seaworld, 2004. Accessed August 7, 2004. [END OF PREVIEW]

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