Then the cows return to sea, leaving their now weaned pups behind. Male elephant seals will stay on land not just a month, but the entire breeding season of about 100 days, fasting all this time. It is no wonder that this physiological stress, combined with their ferocious fighting for mating privileges, restricts a male life span to only 10 - 12 years. Females on the other hand, can live to over 20 years of age, generally producing a single pup each year, starting to breed between age 3-6. Elephant seals are physiological marvels, fasting twice a year during the breeding and molting haulouts, migrating vast distances twice each year between these haul outs, and diving to depths where steel is crushed.
A healthy weanling
The weanlings left behind molt their long black lanugo fur to a short silver coat soon after their mothers depart. They remain for a month or so, learning to swim in tidepools and shallow coves at night. When their hunger finally triggers their departure, they swim along the bottom. These behaviors are thought to be adaptations to shark predation pressure. White sharks are daytime ambush predators that strike prey near the surface suddenly from below. The weanlings will return to the Farallones in the fall to molt again, and that is when you will learn about the sharks and their seal prey in realtime.
Posted by: Danny