A couple of thousand female elephant seals are returning from the far reaches of the North Pacific Ocean to give birth to their pups on the beaches Año Nuevo State Reserve in Northern California.
To celebrate this amazing migration, we are inviting the TOPP community to witness and learn about the seals' 21,000-mile annual journeys during Elephant Seal Homecoming Days, sponsored by TOPP and California State Parks.
The tracking of these seals began when researchers from Dan Costa's lab at the UC Santa Cruz Long Marine Lab attached satellite tags to 20 female and 10 male elephant seals during the summer of 2008. For eight months, the seals have lived and foraged along the rich edges of the massive eddies that swirl across the North Pacific.
We are following 15 named elephant seals back to shore as researchers posted blogs about their arrival, their pup's birth, and tag removal.
When TOPP.org debuted in July 2007, we chose one seal to represent her species and named her Penelope. Penelope is no longer wearing a satellite tag, but she continues to represent her species on TOPP.org.
The 15 new seals were give names based on their history or the history of their surroundings. There are a couple seals that have fun names as well. Their names are Poppy, Callie, Sidda (short for Obsidian), Monty, Josephine, Featherfoot, Stelephant Colbert, Jon Sealwart, Sandy, Spot, Sunny, Bottleneck, Ellie, Sebastian, and Nat.
The details of their history are on their trading cards below. Karen Maor's fourth-grade science students at Hillbrook School in Los Gatos, CA and Cathy Guiley's 4-5 graders at Valencia Elementary in Aptos, CA named many of these new seals.
NOVA, Ocean Animal Emergency In this web interactive classroom lesson, Students first research five types of marine mammals, including elephant seals. They then plot tracking data on a map and determine which of the five species the tracked information represents. Grade level: 5th- 8th grade
Discovering Northern Elephant Seal: Who Is in the Elephant Seal's Food Pyramid? Students construct a food pyramid to lay a foundation for understanding the elephant seal life cycle and behaviors. The goal is to understand the elephant seals' role in the food pyramid, as well as the humans' role in every food pyramid. Grade Level: 5th - 8th grade
FUN FACT: Northern elephant seals were hunted nearly to extinction in the 1880s. They are protected by Mexican and American laws, and have made an amazing comeback, from 100 that survived at Guadalupe Island off Mexico, to more than 160,000 today.- www.whaletimes.org
California State Parks:PORTS (Parks Online Resource for Teachers and Students), Elephant Seal curriculum Evolutionary history and adaptations of the northern elephant seals of Año Nuevo State Reserve. The highlight of this study unit is a video conference between students and a park ranger. The ranger acts as guide for a virtual tour of the rookery and discusses the evolutionary history and adaptations of elephant seals with students. Grade level: 7th grade, adaptable for other grades, in English and Spanish
FUN FACT: Northern elephant seals eat squid, octopus, fish and sometimes even small sharks. Southern elephant seals have a similar diet. - www.whaletimes.org
The intent of these guides is to provide middle school students with the opportunity to observe natural processes at Point Reyes National Seashore so they might take a greater interest in environmental stewardship and science. Each guide is carefully designed to facilitate a hands-on learning experience using science and the environment. Natural resources, such as northern elephant seals, are highlighted because they are easy to identify and to observe.
FUN FACT: Northern elephant seals migrate farther than any other mammal on earth, and are the only mammals known to make two migrations each year. After the breeding season, they migrate to feeding grounds in the northern Pacific Ocean. In the summer, they return to the beaches to molt, then migrate back to feeding areas until the next breeding season. Every year, they travel about 21,000 miles (33,800 km). - Monterey Bay Aquarium
National Geographic’s Xpeditions: Elephant Seals on the Beach: Northern elephant seals choose different locations for different activities. Adult seals spend most of their time feeding in the northeastern Pacific, but they come to shore twice a year to breed, give birth, and molt. In this lesson, students will pretend they’ve visited one of the rookery beaches, and draw pictures about their experiences. Grade Level: K-2
FUN FACT: The male’s large nose is a secondary sexual characteristic. Large body size, large nose, and a deep booming voice sometimes serve to intimidate challengers, so that energy-depleting fights can be avoided.- Friends of the Elephant Seal
California State University at Monterey Bay: : Elephant Seals A rich site developed by Prof. Henrik Kibak for teachers interested in presenting biology topics using elephant seals as a theme. Exercises, references, and many pictures make this an excellent resource. Focus is on the Ano Nuevo rookery. Grade Level: High School
FUN FACT: Males can live 14 years; females, 20. But only a few live that long. Only one in seven pups lives to 4 years old. - Friends of the Elephant Seal
Santa Barbara Community College: Marine Science Course by Genny Anderson The link is to her section on elephant seals, but the site has a wide range of resources on all aspects of marine science. Grade level: High School
FUN FACT: Male elephant seals compete for females during breeding season, from December through March. The strongest, most aggressive male generally has access to more females. They compete for the females through visual and vocal threats, and occasionally physical battles. - www.whaletimes.org
FUN FACT: Once each year, in the summer, elephant seals come ashore and shed the first layer of skin and their fur. The skin and fur come off in sheets as new skin and fur replace the old. - Monterey Bay Aquarium
ELEPHANT SEAL CONSERVATION
Año Nuevo State Reserve: Site of the largest mainland breeding colony in the world for the northern elephant seal, the reserve’s interpretive program has attracted thousands of people on guided tours every winter for the last 19 years. The males battle for mates on the beaches and the females give birth to their pups on the dunes. People who hope to see the seals during the winter breeding season are urged to get their reservations early.
FUN FACT: Northern elephant seals can stay underwater for 40 minutes, sometimes longer. They normally dive 1,000 to 2,000 feet, but can go as deep as 5,000 feet. When they dive, they swim only for the first one hundred feet, coast for the remainder and sometimes nap on the way down. - http://www.whaletimes.org/whaelsl.htm
Friends of the Elephant Seal: This non-profit organization educates people about elephant seals and other marine life and teaches stewardship for the ocean off the central coast of California.
The Marine Mammal Center: Founded in 1975, The Marine Mammal Center is a nonprofit organization that rescues, rehabilitates and releases injured, sick and orphaned marine mammals (seals, sea lions, dolphins, porpoises, whales and sea otters) along a 600 mile stretch of California coastline, from Mendocino County through San Luis Obispo County.
Seal Conservation Society: With ever-increasing threats from sources such as pollution, over-fishing, marine debris, entanglement in fishing gear and intentional killing, pinnipeds worldwide have a greater need than ever for protection. The Seal Conservation Society helps with that protection by promoting the conservation, welfare and study of the 33 living pinniped species.
FUN FACT: With all that blubber, elephant seal bodies are designed to keep warm in cold water. On land, sand flipping helps them keep cool; they also flip sand when they’re under stress.- Friends of the Elephant Seal
ELEPHANT SEAL VIDEOS
Año Nuevo State Reserve Elephant Seal Guided Tour
RK Productions, Google Video.
Elephant Seals at Point Piedras Blancas
Wonders of the West
Tagging elephant seals
A Seal's Life - The Story of the Northern Elephant Seal
From Wharton Media.
How a male elephant seal protects his harem.
From BBC Worldwide.
Copyright 2002-2010, Tagging of Pacific Predators. Follow the adventures of leatherback turtles, white sharks, elephant seals, salmon sharks, albatross, and 18 other species on TOPP. Their satellite tags send daily updates. All rights reserved. TOPP is a project of the Census of Marine Life. Contact Us.