Elephant seals, also known as Sea elephants may not look like they frequent the deep ocean, but did you know they can dive deeper than 1000 meters in their search for food?
An elephant seal basking on the beach at Año Nuevo, California. (Photo from Adobe Stock, by Photoeverywhere)
The elephant seal is named after its characteristic large nose – somewhat reminiscent of an elephant’s trunk! The large nose is a multi-purpose organ – giving the seal the ability to produce loud roaring noises for communication and to attract mates. In addition, they use the huge nose to regulate their own body temperature!
Juvenile and female elephant seals are smaller than males. They also lack the large nose! (Photo from Adobe Stock, by Christina Felschen)
Elephant seals are considered to be the largest carnivore (within the order Carnivora) in the world! They have a diverse diet of mesopelagic organisms to support their growth. In fact, they can reach a length of 5 meters, and a whooping weight of 2000 kilograms!
A 3D model of a diving elephant seal. (From this video)
The elephant seal can spend up to 80% of its life underwater in search for food. This includes energy-rich small mesopelagic fish, but also squid, shrimp and krill. The average dive depth of an elephant seal is between 300-600 meters, making them a frequent inhabitant of the ocean mesopelagic zone.
With their excellent hearing and whiskers which allow them to detect vibrations in the water, they are efficient predators diving deep to enjoy the diverse prey items the twilight zone has to offer.
Do you want to learn more about the incredible life in the ocean mesopelagic zone? Check out our latest animated video below, and stay tuned for more Creature Spotlights!