Saturday, November 19, 2011

Guadalupe Fur Seal

Arctocephalus townsendi
We almost lost the Guadalupe Fur Seal. They were hunted commercially during the 1700s and 1800s, and were believed to be extinct by the beginning of the 20th century. Luckily, some survived and the species has been revived. The population is now nearing 7,500. Though they have been rebounding, they still remain the rarest of the Fur Seals.

Guadalupe Fur Seals breed exclusively on Guadalupe Island, off of the Pacific Coast of Mexico. The location is a protected sanctuary. When not breeding, the seals have occasionally been found up towards California and the Channel Islands.

Guadalupe Fur Seals exhibit incredible sexual dimorphism. Males can weigh nearly 4 times more than the females! However, females tend to live longer. Their life expectancy (around 23 years) is close to double that of a males (only 13 years).

During the mating season males will protect territories and mate with all females inside of their range (usually 4-12 in total). Interestingly, many of the seals will breed in caves rather than on the beaches. One theory is that the hunting of the past drove them to hide.

Fish and Squid make up the Fur Seal's diet. And though they are not truly migratory, they will make round trips that measure hundreds of miles in order to find food. They hunt mainly at night, and will dive to depths of around 55ft (17m).

IUCN Status : Near Threatened
Location : Guadalupe Island, Mexico
Size : Length up to 7ft (2.2m) for males, 5ft (1.5m) for females. Weight up to 415lbs (188kg) for males, 110lbs (49kg) for females
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Carnivora
Suborder : Pinnipedia -- Family : Otariidae -- Genus : Arctocephalus -- Species : A. townsendi

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