SciSun: Ya’ Gotta Know the Territory   Leave a comment

Everybody’s got to be someplace. And for most wildlife (and domesticated animals, and plants, and people, too, for that matter), some-place is a territory. While our ‘territory’ – or personal space – might be our room, house, or yard (‘You kids get off my grass!), the territories of most other species might not seem so well-defined – at least not to us, who rely more upon fences and concrete and walls to identify who lives where. Yet unseen, ‘open’ areas to us are actually carefully-defined and patrolled spaces to those ‘in the know’, where individuals or even groups guard and protect what they’ve claimed as their own.

And of all species, Elephant Seals (Mirounga angustirostris and M. leonina) need a lot of space. Maybe not in terms of overall area claimed, where a pack of Grey Wolves (Canis lupus) can range over 1000 square miles, or the Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) claims hundreds of square miles as its own; but big just in size, because Elephant Seals are, well, elephantine-big. At up to 20 feet long and weighing almost 9000 pounds, males of of the Southern species (M. leonina), living along the coasts of South America (as well as New Zealand and South Africa) are larger than any other American animal that spends any time on land, and throughout the world surpassed only by a few giants like actual elephant-Elephants; Hippopotamus; and White Rhinoceros. The Northern species (M. angustirostris) – that are found along the coasts of Mexico, California, Oregon and Washington – are slightly smaller but still formidable at 15 or so feet and 5000 pounds, again, for the males. Females of both species are much smaller but still outclass any other seal, sea lion, surfer, or beach-goer along the shore. Of course, most any of the great whales populating the oceans are larger than the largest Elephant Seal – even though both are closely related.

Thinking the informative signs about elephant seals actually identify this overlook as the best place for elephant seals,  Angus Sealingford tries to claim his territory.  Fortunately animal experts were able to steer him away equipped with the latest technology in seal control, thin sheets of plywood.

Thinking the informative signs about elephant seals actually identify this overlook as the best place for elephant seals, Angus Sealingford tries to claim his territory. Fortunately animal experts were able to steer him away equipped with the latest technology in seal control, thin sheets of plywood.

Because all seals; sea lions; dolphins; whales; porpoises; and, some classify, polar bears are Marine Mammals, very similar to dogs and horses and rabbits and raccoons and mice and you and I and thousands of other species in that we are all warm-blooded (endothermic – relying on physiology, rather than environment, to maintain body temperature); have a vertebrae (or ‘backbone’); give birth to live babies (rather than laying eggs) and feed those babies milk; and have hair on our bodies. Yes, even whales have hair, although not that much and it’s hard to see. Like that guy we all know that combs his hair from the back to the front and thinks no one notices. But what is most distinctive about Marine Mammals is all make their homes in the ocean. Whales (including dolphins and porpoises which are small whales), obviously, live their entire lives in the water; while seals and sea lions prefer to rest on land. Which brings us back to territory; because each season of late Winter through Spring, these animals crowd beaches, during this time known as pup rookeries, looking for the best places to claim as they search for mates and protect the patch of sand they’ve selected as their own. (Hint: Halfway between the rocks and the water is the best location. The commute might be a little longer, but can’t beat the view!).

Along the central California coast, for a few weeks thousands of seals can be seen – and heard – as they threaten perceived trespassers and challenge their neighbors for getting just a little too close to their space; because this is the only time of the year that seals and sea lions are unusually territorial; during much of their lives most of these pinniped species are content to live and let live, sometimes even working together as they fish. But on land, particularly during the Spring (when it seems all animals are hurrying to find the best nest sites and secure the most favored areas), it’s best to enjoy seals and sea lions from a distance. And, if at any time of year you are exploring a beach and should come across one of these two-ton Elephants, just back away slowly. While we, as people, have a choice of where we go, no seal or sea lion is ever really all that willing to share his personal space.

http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=1115

http://www1.ucsc.edu/news_events/press_releases/archive/99-00/01-00/elephant_seals.htm

^^^

Michonne Says: Everybody knows there are all sorts of strange things living in the water so nothing in this story surprises me at all, even though I’m not sure what an ‘ocean’ is. Or a ‘sea’, either. But if sea lions are anything like mountain lions, I bet they hide behind rocks and jump out at you, but IN THE WATER!!

Posted March 6, 2016 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

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