7 Feb 2022

Male Elephant Seals Face Threat of Extinction with Current Feeding Habits

Male Elephant Seals Face Threat of Extinction with Current Feeding Habits

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Research has found that male elephant seals face great personal risks while hunting for food as they attempt to withstand the threat of extinction.

The new study published in the January issue of Royal Society Open Science discusses the remarkable difference between the feeding habits of males and females, and how their mating strategies inform their choice of locations.

For male elephant seals, their size is of great import as only the largest ones can gain access to mates, thereby aiding in the sustenance of their species. In an attempt to eat and grow larger, they also encounter enormous risks to themselves as the study found males to be six times more likely to die than females while foraging.

The research study, headed by Dr. Sarah Kienle of Texas-bases Baylor University, discovered that while female elephant seals hunt for food in the deep, open ocean, the males usually stick to the shallows which allows them to grow three to seven times larger than their female counterparts.

However, this also makes them more susceptible to mortality with the reason(s) remaining unclear, although Dr. Kienle attributes it to possible predation by orcas and great white sharks that lurk near shore waters.

©Photo: Chase Dekker Wild-Life Images/Getty Images