Elephant Seals

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Editor's note: No, Karen's ship didn't run aground.  She is still safely on the water, we're just publishing this post out of order to save you from too many cute animal pictures in a row.  Plankton fans: don't worry, your day will come soon...

This entry is really an excuse to wow you with pretty pictures of seals.  Elephant seals are one of the species commonly seen around the Antarctic Peninsula and they were fairly abundant around Palmer Station.  Other seal species that live here include: leopard seals, Weddell seals, crab-eater seals and fur seals.  Elephant seals live in harems of females, for which male individuals fight.  It is therefore common to see one large male with several females.    

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 An elephant seal smiles for the camera

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Trying to reach that itch- not easy when you're HUGE!

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Inter-species interaction?  Unlikely.

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A group of elephant seals at the bottom of the glacier at Palmer Station- a great surprise in the middle of a lovely hike.

At the moment, little work is being done on seals in Antarctica.  Researchers opportunistically survey their populations for numbers and distribution.  Moms and pups are surveyed for their respective weights.  A study that ended a few years ago sought to understand the lipid (fat) transfer from mother Weddell seals to their pups; this work was conducted out of McMurdo Research Station.  I wonder what the trends are in different seal populations and whether each species is susceptible to different environmental factors, perhaps related to their respective food sources.  I also wonder how much the animals' distributions change over time- do the seals use one habitat for an amount of time and then shift to another?  Does this happen on the scale of one animal's lifetime?  Multiple generations?  Just some food for thought...so to speak.

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This page contains a single entry by Andy Pershing published on January 25, 2012 3:10 PM.

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