January 4, 2016
What is Going On?
- as seen by -Claudio Campagna, B.J. Le Boeuf
This Southern elephant seal is: a) dead, b) hiding, c) sleeping, d) foraging.
If you guessed c) sleeping, you are correct. Seals are creatures of the deep ocean. They are Olympic divers that can reach a mile under water and hold their breath for up to two hours.
Elephant seals, like this young male, alternate holding their breath for about 25 minutes and only breathe for about three minutes while sleeping undisturbed on land.
So, it doesn’t matter whether the head is in water or not. The seals simply emulate the diving pattern that serves them while foraging at sea.
The benefit of these “terrestrial dives” is that the seals exhale less, and therefore, minimize water loss to the environment. The seals must conserve water because they fast from food and water for months when they are on land.