Saturday, November 15, 2008

California Pinnipeds

Back in 2007, before the economy took a complete nose dive, we could still afford to take more then one vacation a year. We used to try and take a trip somewhere warm during the winter and then our annual Yellowstone trip either in the spring or the fall. In February of 2007 we took a trip to Monterey Bay in California. We had a lot of opportunity to photograph some birds and animals that we do not see in Minnesota. This included several different types of pinnipeds.
Pinnipeds are fin-footed, semi aquatic, marine mammals. Pinnipeds consist of the odobenidae, phocidae, and otariidae families. The otariidae family, or the eared seals, differ from true seals in a number of ways. Besides having external ears, which true seals do not, they also have more of a canine shaped snout and longer front flippers then true seals. The longer flippers allow them to maneuver better on land which is why they are sometimes called walking seals.
Otariidae consist of sea lions and fur seals. The California sea lion, as pictured in the first two pics, are sea lions of the northern pacific ocean. They are intelligent and social creatures that adapt well to being around humans. They can often be found sunning themselves in groups on the shoreline or on man made objects such as docks and buoys. The phocidae family of pinnipeds are the true, or earless, seals. They are more streamlined, then their eared cousins, and spend less of their time out of the water. Because they are so well adapted to living in the water they are very awkward when they are on land. The harbor seal, pictured above is the most wide ranging member of the phocidae family. They are found in both the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean as well as the Baltic and North Seas.
Another member of the phocidae family is the elephant seal. The elephant seal is named for the large proboscis on the head of the males which somewhat resembles and elephants trunk. These were northern elephant seals which are smaller then he southern elephant seals which are found in coastal regions in New Zealand, South America and Africa.
Elephant seals spend over 80% of their life in the water. They eat, travel and even sleep under water. The big exception to this is during the mating season. Starting in December they migrate to breeding grounds like the beaches at Point Reyes National Seashore. That is where we photographed these seals. This large bull male had quite a harem that he was watching over on the beach.
The odobenidae family consists of the largest of the pinnipeds the walrus. Since walruses are exclusively an Arctic species there were none to photograph on our trip to California. I am hoping to make it back up to Alaska some day and maybe then I will get an opportunity to photograph a walrus.


earthlingorgeous said...

Are pinnepeds similar to seagulls? coz they do look like one. Thanks for the information. Learned new things again.

I also have my camera critter photo and found you on their site.

By the way, I am celebrating my blog 1 year anniversary and I would like to invite you to join my giveaway. Details here

Happy Sunday!

gina said...


Nicole said...

This pictures are just gorgeous!

Jedediah said...

The elephant seal pictures are awesome! Seals always look so very content when they are dozing in the sun.

Cathy said...

Great post!

Leedra said...

They are beautiful, great series of photos.

babooshka said...

We have seals, but not a as close as these. Wonderful series of images.