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Young southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) on the beach at South Georgia in the Southern Ocean. There is much mock-fighting among males on the beach (breeding season is actually over and the truly large bulls have left to forage). The Southern Elephant Seal is one of two species of elephant seal. It is not only the most massive pinniped but also the largest member of the order Carnivora to ever live. The seal gets its name from its great size and the large proboscis of the adult males, which is used in making extraordinarily loud roaring noises, especially during the mating season. There is a great sexual dimorphism in size, with the males much larger than the females. While the females average about 680 kg (1,500 lb) and 3 m (10 feet) long, the bulls average around 3636 kg (8,000 lb) and 4.2 m (13 feet) long. The record bull, shot in Possession Bay, South Georgia in 1913, was 5,000 kg (11,000 lb) and 6.9 m (22.5 feet) long. The world's population is approximately 650,000 animals. The largest sub-population is in the South Atlantic with more than 400,000 individuals including approximately 350,000 seals in South Georgia, the other breeding colonies located on the Falkland Islands, Antarctica, and Valdes Peninsula in Argentina (the only continental breeding population). Thanks to satellite tracking, it was found that the animals spend very little time on the surface, usually a few minutes for oxygen. They dive repeatedly, each time for more than twenty minutes, to hunt their prey; squid and fish, between 400 and 1000 m deep. The diving records were recorded in nearly two hours for the duration and more than 1400 m in depth.


Michael Nolan