Believe it or not, this huge Elephant Seal is only a pup, at not even two months of age. It was found in a port, most likely not long after it was weaned; malnourished and hypothermic, it had to be rescued and taken to a rescue center for marine animals, where it has to stay until it is fat and healthy enough to be returned to the ocean. For now, he enjoys a nice scratch while sunbathing. How cute is that?!
The Southern Elephant Seal (Mirounga leonina) is the largest species of pinnipeds, and have a striking sexual dimorphism, with males being 8 to 10 times larger than females. Males have been recorded to weigh up to 3700 Kg, whereas females weigh between 400 and 800 Kg, making it the most sexually dimorphic of all mammal species.
It has an extensive range and breeding sites are on islands around the sub-Antarctic, although sometimes the pups might be born on mainland Antarctica. When not ashore, they inhabit most of the Southern Ocean. There are four genetically distinct populations around the globe: the Southern Pacific Ocean, the South Atlantic, the Southern Indian Ocean, and the Peninsula Valdes population in Argentina.
They spend over 80% of the time in the water, making long migrations to better foraging areas to feed intensively in order to build up the blubber stores required to support them during breeding and molting haulouts. They have developed the ability to dive to depths of over 1500 m, for as long as 120 minutes, to prey on deep-water squid and fish. In the Antarctic, juvenile males stay within the pack ice to forage, and similar behavior is observed on juvenile males on the Patagonian shelf.
The breeding cycle begins with the largest males hauling out on deserted beaches in August, and then pregnant females haul out, giving birth 2 to 5 days after arriving. The females stay with their pup during the lactation period, fasting. The pups weigh between 30 and 40 kg at birth, but by the time they wean, 23 to 25 days later, they weigh approximately 120 to 130 kg.