Historical note on the northern elephant seal

One important fact that I didn’t have room to mention in my column on elephant seals is that they too were victims of exploitation, I’m talking major exploitation. According to the book Elephant Seals by Carole and Phil Adams, “by the end of the 1880s elephant seals were thought to be extinct, due to the… [read more]

Elephant seals: ocean aliens have landed!

Picture an elephant crossed with a seal and add in a little “District 9” alien. The result: the male northern elephant seal or Mirounga angustirostris. The elephant part of the description helps convey the sheer mass of the male elephant seal, plus the shape of its nose. According to the book Elephant Seals by Carole… [read more]

4 main types of cetacean prey

1. The first types of prey that many cetaceans prefer are tiny critters that form large schools closer to the surface. This includes several types of crustaceans (krill) and small fish (sardines, anchovies). And ironically enough, the largest whales prefer this type of dinner and have a built-in filter system called baleen that allows them… [read more]

Bones: water living changes bones

Here I thought that reading the section on bones in the Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals would bore me to tears. And well let’s just be honest, some of it was definitely sleep inducing. Until I came to the part about “two very different trends in bone architecture and histology.” OK, stay with me now, I… [read more]

Behavior in marine mammals

As fellow mammals, marine mammals spend a lot of time doing the same things we do. Shopping or hunting for food, eating, finding a mate, having sex, raising young, traveling and escaping bad guys are all activities occupying the time of marine mammals across the globe. But we have adapted to solid ground under our… [read more]

Baculum: the penis bone

Walrus baculum, 22 inches long The “B” section of the Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals launches with an article by Edward Miller on the baculum. The baculum is a bone located in the penis of several species. For marine mammals this includes polar bears, sea otters, seals, sea lions and walruses. Bacula (plural of baculum) come… [read more]

Arctic Marine Mammals

What better way to celebrate the holiday season than with a post about all the fabulous marine mammals hanging out near the North Pole? The Arctic hosts a variety of marine mammals including eight species of pinnipeds (several seals, walruses), three cetaceans (bowhead, beluga and narwhal whales) and one fissiped (polar bears). (For me, fissiped is… [read more]