Elephant seals get their name from the large and floppy proboscis of the males. Nowhere near as long as an actual elephant's trunk, it is a prominant bulge that hangs down off the nose. The proboscis serves as a resonator to allow the bulls to make loud roaring calls. The females are fairly typical-sized seals, but are dwarfed by the enormous males.
Elephant seals are one of the world's deepest diving mammals. They feed on squid, fish, and shellfish. Large eyes help them detect photoluminescent wakes of their prey, and like other seals they hunt by sound, detecting their preys pressure waves with their whiskers, and using their whiskers to track turbulent wakes of passing prey.
Most human experience with elephant seals comes when they congregate to whelp, breed, and fight. The bulls arrive first to stake out territories. They roar and brawl to sort out who gets to stay where. Their bloody conflicts involve two bulls squaring off and rising up as high as they can, then chest slamming and slashing out with their teeth to lacerate their opponent's face and chest. Thick blubber acts as armor to protect their vital areas but they still get cut up and bleed. When the females come ashore, they choose the males with the best territories. The cows whelp shortly after cominga shore, and nurse for nearly a month without feeding. They breed at the end of their nursing chore then head back out to sea, abandoning their pups on the beach. The pups spend more than two weeks learning how to swim in the waters near their rookery, then leave for the open ocean.
Male elephant seals in the breeding season can be rather testy, and are likely to attack nearby tall objects, including humans. People venturing into elephant seal rookeries find safety by crawling rather than walking - the low profile is less threatening to the bulls. People doing this still must avoid being crushed by the massive bulk of the males, however, should one decide to gallumph across the trespasser.
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