Study Finds That Seals Feed at Offshore Windfarms
Some seals prefer to forage for food at offshore wind farms, a study suggests.
by Michelle Warwicker
Researchers found a proportion of GPS tagged harbour seals repeatedly visited wind turbines in the North Sea. They deduced the mammals were attracted to these structures - which may act as artificial reefs - to hunt for prey.
"As far as we know this is the first study that’s shown marine mammals feeding at wind farms," said research team member Dr Deborah Russell from the University of St Andrews, UK.
The team’s findings are detailed in a correspondence article published in the journal Current Biology.
Dr Russell and colleagues tracked dozens of harbour or common seals (Phoca vitulina) and grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) living around the British and Dutch coasts of the North Sea. They observed 11 harbour seals visiting wind farms - Sheringham Shoal in the UK and Alpha Ventus in Germany…
(read more: BBC Nature)
photograph by Christine Hall

Study Finds That Seals Feed at Offshore Windfarms

Some seals prefer to forage for food at offshore wind farms, a study suggests.

by Michelle Warwicker

Researchers found a proportion of GPS tagged harbour seals repeatedly visited wind turbines in the North Sea. They deduced the mammals were attracted to these structures - which may act as artificial reefs - to hunt for prey.

"As far as we know this is the first study that’s shown marine mammals feeding at wind farms," said research team member Dr Deborah Russell from the University of St Andrews, UK.

The team’s findings are detailed in a correspondence article published in the journal Current Biology.

Dr Russell and colleagues tracked dozens of harbour or common seals (Phoca vitulina) and grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) living around the British and Dutch coasts of the North Sea. They observed 11 harbour seals visiting wind farms - Sheringham Shoal in the UK and Alpha Ventus in Germany…

(read more: BBC Nature)

photograph by Christine Hall

Harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) mom with pup, Protection Island National Wildlife, WA, USA. 
The refuge is part of the Washington Maritime National Wildlife Refuge Complex in the USFWS_Pacific Region.  The island, located off the coast of Washington state, is closed to the public to protect nesting seabirds and harbor seals. About 1,000 harbor seals depend upon the island for a pupping and rest area.  Visitors may view the island from their boats, but the island itself is closed to public access. Private boat tours around the island are available from nearby marinas.Photograph by Dow Lambert/USFWS
(via: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) mom with pup, Protection Island National Wildlife, WA, USA.

The refuge is part of the Washington Maritime National Wildlife Refuge Complex in the USFWS_Pacific Region.

The island, located off the coast of Washington state, is closed to the public to protect nesting seabirds and harbor seals. About 1,000 harbor seals depend upon the island for a pupping and rest area.

Visitors may view the island from their boats, but the island itself is closed to public access. Private boat tours around the island are available from nearby marinas.

Photograph by Dow Lambert/USFWS

(via: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

palaeopedia
palaeopedia:

The mediterranean Monk Seal, Monachus monachus (1779)
Phylum : ChordataClass : MammaliaOrder : CarnivoraSuborder : PinnipediaFamily : PhocidaeGenus : MonachusSpecies : M. monachus
Critically endangered
2,4 m long and 300 kg (size)
Mediterranean sea (map)
The monk seals’ pups are about a meter long and weigh around 15–18 kilograms, their skin being covered by 1–1.5 centimeter-long, dark brown to black hair. On their bellies, there is a white stripe, which differs in color between the two sexes. This hair is replaced after six to eight weeks by the usual short hair adults carry.
Pregnant Mediterranean monk seals typically use inaccessible undersea caves while giving birth, though historical descriptions show they used open beaches until the 18th century. There are eight pairs of teeth in both jaws.
Believed to have the shortest hair of any pinniped, the Mediterranean monk seal fur is black (males) or brown to dark grey (females), with a paler belly, which is close to white in males. The snout is short broad and flat, with very pronounced, long nostrils that face upward, unlike their Hawaiian relative, which tend to have more forward nostrils. The flippers are relatively short, with small slender claws. Monk seals have two pairs of retractable abdominal teats, unlike most other pinnipeds…
(read more)

palaeopedia:

The mediterranean Monk Seal, Monachus monachus (1779)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Mammalia
Order : Carnivora
Suborder : Pinnipedia
Family : Phocidae
Genus : Monachus
Species : M. monachus

  • Critically endangered
  • 2,4 m long and 300 kg (size)
  • Mediterranean sea (map)

The monk seals’ pups are about a meter long and weigh around 15–18 kilograms, their skin being covered by 1–1.5 centimeter-long, dark brown to black hair. On their bellies, there is a white stripe, which differs in color between the two sexes. This hair is replaced after six to eight weeks by the usual short hair adults carry.

Pregnant Mediterranean monk seals typically use inaccessible undersea caves while giving birth, though historical descriptions show they used open beaches until the 18th century. There are eight pairs of teeth in both jaws.

Believed to have the shortest hair of any pinniped, the Mediterranean monk seal fur is black (males) or brown to dark grey (females), with a paler belly, which is close to white in males. The snout is short broad and flat, with very pronounced, long nostrils that face upward, unlike their Hawaiian relative, which tend to have more forward nostrils. The flippers are relatively short, with small slender claws. Monk seals have two pairs of retractable abdominal teats, unlike most other pinnipeds…

(read more)

Tetrapod Zoology: Seals, the Early Years

by Darren Naish

It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for… stem-pinnipeds at Tet Zoo. Or, probable stem-pinnipeds anyway. This minimum-effort post is brought to you on the back of work showing that pinnipeds (seals, sea lions and walruses) are monophyletic, not diphyletic, and that the taxa shown here – Potamotherium, Puijila and so on – really are early members of the pinniped lineage, not convergently pinniped-like carnivorans of some sort. If there are any questions or areas of debate — hey, that’s what the comment section is for.

The illustrations of Semantor are from Orlov (1933). The images of Puijila, and the cladogram shown at the bottom, are from Rybczynski et al. (2009) (the cladogram is arguably odd in showing the name Pinnipedia as being attached to the entire clade rather than just to the crown-group… which isn’t shown on the tree). The skeletal reconstruction of Potamotherium is from Savage & Long (1986) and the life restoration of it is by Graham Allen…

(find out more: Scientific American)

Walruses Are Deadly Hunters, Not Cute and Squishy
by Jason G. Goldman
Despite their tusks, walruses seem cute. Indeed, most marine biologists think they use their massive chompers just to eat clams and other shellfish. But walruses have a secret: they sometimes indulge in meatier meals.
The first clue that walruses used their tusks for more than breaking through clamshells came in 2008, when the BBC revealed footage of walruses chasing after eider ducks. “What? Walruses hunting ducks? Didn’t they eat clams and other shellfish? What nonsense!” thought marine biologist Adrian Burton. “Yet here was visual evidence that these white-tusked, bristle-lipped pinnipeds might be something more than the bottom-feeding mollusk-munchers I had thought them to be.”
When a paper was published describing the scene caught by the BBC, the authors were careful to note that they never witnessed a walrus actually catching a duck, only chasing them. Perhaps they were playing, rather than hunting?
As Burton discovered, evidence is slowly accumulating that walruses indeed dine on the occasional feathered specimen. And it’s not just birds, either. Walruses were also found feasting on seals. Evidence for that went all the way back to 1889…
(read more at io9)
photograph via USFWS

Walruses Are Deadly Hunters, Not Cute and Squishy

by Jason G. Goldman

Despite their tusks, walruses seem cute. Indeed, most marine biologists think they use their massive chompers just to eat clams and other shellfish. But walruses have a secret: they sometimes indulge in meatier meals.

The first clue that walruses used their tusks for more than breaking through clamshells came in 2008, when the BBC revealed footage of walruses chasing after eider ducks. “What? Walruses hunting ducks? Didn’t they eat clams and other shellfish? What nonsense!” thought marine biologist Adrian Burton. “Yet here was visual evidence that these white-tusked, bristle-lipped pinnipeds might be something more than the bottom-feeding mollusk-munchers I had thought them to be.”

When a paper was published describing the scene caught by the BBC, the authors were careful to note that they never witnessed a walrus actually catching a duck, only chasing them. Perhaps they were playing, rather than hunting?

As Burton discovered, evidence is slowly accumulating that walruses indeed dine on the occasional feathered specimen. And it’s not just birds, either. Walruses were also found feasting on seals. Evidence for that went all the way back to 1889…

(read more at io9)

photograph via USFWS

Hawaiian Monk Seals
The Hawaiian monk seal (Monachus schauinslandi) is one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world. They are endemic to Hawaii, meaning they are native and are not found anywhere else in the world. Its Hawaiian name is ‘Ilio‐holo‐i‐ka‐uaua (pronounced ee‐lee‐o holo ee ka ooa‐ooa). Most Hawaiian monk seals can be found around the Northwest Hawaiian Islands in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. The Service manages many remote islands as refuges to protect their habitat: (USFWS - Monk Seals). Monk seals spend most of their time in the ocean but like to rest on sandy beaches. Give seals space if you see them on the beach or in the water – stay at least 150 ft. away or stay behind any signs or ropes. The Hawaiian monk seal recovery efforts are overseen by the NOAA Fisheries Service, in cooperation with other government and private organizations and universities. 
Follow recovery efforts from the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program: http://1.usa.gov/1jsrusM. Photo: James Watt/ (NOAA)

Hawaiian Monk Seals

The Hawaiian monk seal (Monachus schauinslandi) is one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world. They are endemic to Hawaii, meaning they are native and are not found anywhere else in the world. Its Hawaiian name is ‘Ilio‐holo‐i‐ka‐uaua (pronounced ee‐lee‐o holo ee ka ooa‐ooa).

Most Hawaiian monk seals can be found around the Northwest Hawaiian Islands in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. The Service manages many remote islands as refuges to protect their habitat: (USFWS - Monk Seals). Monk seals spend most of their time in the ocean but like to rest on sandy beaches. Give seals space if you see them on the beach or in the water – stay at least 150 ft. away or stay behind any signs or ropes.

The Hawaiian monk seal recovery efforts are overseen by the NOAA Fisheries Service, in cooperation with other government and private organizations and universities.

Follow recovery efforts from the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program: http://1.usa.gov/1jsrusM.

Photo: James Watt/ (NOAA)

Scientists uncover new marine mammal genus, represented by single endangered species 
by Jeremy Hance
This is the story of three seals: the Caribbean, the Hawaiian, and the Mediterranean monk seals. Once numbering in the hundreds of thousands, the Caribbean monk seal was a hugely abundant marine mammal found across the Caribbean, and even recorded by Christopher Columbus during his second voyage, whose men killed several for food. Less than 500 years later the species would be extinct—due to overhunting. But scientists have long wondered how the extinct Caribbean monk seal was related to other monk seals: was it more closely related to the Mediterranean species or the Hawaiian one? Now, researchers have an answer and a new seal genus, as well. 
"Our paper is the first to firmly solve this riddle, both by producing and analyzing the first DNA evidence from the Caribbean monk seal, and by examining the anatomy of large series of monk seal specimens in museums, mostly from the Smithsonian," co-author and mammalogist Kristofer Helgen with the Smithsonian Institute told mongabay.com. "The answer is that the Caribbean monk seal is most closely related to the Hawaiian monk seal, demonstrating that the New World monk seals form a group to the exclusion of the Mediterranean monk seal." 
In fact, the New World monk seals are so genetically distinct—and physically different—from the Mediterranean monk seal that the researchers have proposed a new genus for the Caribbean and Hawaiian species: Neomonachus. Prior to this all three species were listed under one genus, Monachus…
(read more: MongaBay)
illustration of Caribbean Monk Seal by Peter Shouten

Scientists uncover new marine mammal genus, represented by single endangered species

by Jeremy Hance

This is the story of three seals: the Caribbean, the Hawaiian, and the Mediterranean monk seals. Once numbering in the hundreds of thousands, the Caribbean monk seal was a hugely abundant marine mammal found across the Caribbean, and even recorded by Christopher Columbus during his second voyage, whose men killed several for food. Less than 500 years later the species would be extinct—due to overhunting. But scientists have long wondered how the extinct Caribbean monk seal was related to other monk seals: was it more closely related to the Mediterranean species or the Hawaiian one? Now, researchers have an answer and a new seal genus, as well. 

"Our paper is the first to firmly solve this riddle, both by producing and analyzing the first DNA evidence from the Caribbean monk seal, and by examining the anatomy of large series of monk seal specimens in museums, mostly from the Smithsonian," co-author and mammalogist Kristofer Helgen with the Smithsonian Institute told mongabay.com. "The answer is that the Caribbean monk seal is most closely related to the Hawaiian monk seal, demonstrating that the New World monk seals form a group to the exclusion of the Mediterranean monk seal." 

In fact, the New World monk seals are so genetically distinct—and physically different—from the Mediterranean monk seal that the researchers have proposed a new genus for the Caribbean and Hawaiian species: Neomonachus. Prior to this all three species were listed under one genus, Monachus…

(read more: MongaBay)

illustration of Caribbean Monk Seal by Peter Shouten

One of the Biggest Arctic Migrations You’ve Never Heard Of

by Carmen Yeung

The Bering Strait—located between Alaska’s Seward Peninsula and Russia’s Chukotka Peninsula—is the only marine gateway connecting the Arctic Ocean and Pacific Ocean. At its narrowest point, the strait is just 55 miles wide. Big Diomede Island (Russia) and Little Diomede Island (U.S.) are located near the middle of the Bering Strait, and are separated by a strip of water less than three miles wide.

Despite its cold, remote location, the Bering Strait is a key biological hotspot, a region that contains a significant number of species – some of which are found nowhere else on Earth. This strait is both a bottleneck and a pathway for marine life.

Each spring, millions of seabirds and hundreds of thousands of marine mammals traverse the narrow strait as they migrate to the Arctic Ocean. Sea ice—frozen seawater that floats on the ocean surface—plays a major role in this seasonal migration.

In the spring, migratory birds and marine mammals gather in the Bering Sea and follow the retreating ice edge north through the Bering Strait and into the Chukchi Sea and the Arctic Ocean. The ice edge is highly productive, and the sea ice itself provides important habitat for microorganisms, birds and marine mammals. The Bering and Chukchi Seas are one of the most productive ocean ecosystems in the world…

(read more: Ocean Conservancy)

photos: Ribbon Seal - NOAA Fisheries; Satelite Images - NASA; and Northern Bowhead Whales - NOAA Marine Mammal Laboratory

Hey There Pretty Lady ({:3=
A close up of a female walrus resting after entering the haulout. Sand from the beach is evident on her tusks. Thousands of walruses gathered to rest on the shore near the Alaskan coastal community of Point Lay during September of 2013 after sea ice disappeared from their offshore foraging grounds in the eastern Chukchi Sea. The Pacific walrus is a large pinniped, resident in the Bering and Chukchi Seas of Russia and Alaska, and is one of four marine mammal species managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Walruses feed on clams and a wide variety of other invertebrates from the seafloor. They rest between feeding trips on sea ice or land. Sea ice provides walruses with a resting platform, access to offshore feeding areas, and seclusion from humans and predators. The constant motion of sea ice transports resting walruses over widely dispersed prey patches.Photo taken during USGS research efforts permitted under US Fish and Wildlife Service, Location: Point Lay, AK, USAPhotographer: Ryan Kingsbery, USGS 
(via: U.S. Geological Survey)

Hey There Pretty Lady ({:3=

A close up of a female walrus resting after entering the haulout. Sand from the beach is evident on her tusks. Thousands of walruses gathered to rest on the shore near the Alaskan coastal community of Point Lay during September of 2013 after sea ice disappeared from their offshore foraging grounds in the eastern Chukchi Sea.

The Pacific walrus is a large pinniped, resident in the Bering and Chukchi Seas of Russia and Alaska, and is one of four marine mammal species managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Walruses feed on clams and a wide variety of other invertebrates from the seafloor. They rest between feeding trips on sea ice or land. Sea ice provides walruses with a resting platform, access to offshore feeding areas, and seclusion from humans and predators. The constant motion of sea ice transports resting walruses over widely dispersed prey patches.

Photo taken during USGS research efforts permitted under US Fish and Wildlife Service, Location: Point Lay, AK, USA

Photographer: Ryan Kingsbery, USGS

(via: U.S. Geological Survey)

Here’s a fun one that is sure to put you in a good mood. Jason Neilus, along with some friends, dove in the waters off the coast of the Farne Islands, near Northumberland, England.

He writes: “We’ve been visiting here for the last six years to say hello to the seal pups and we’ve never had this much interaction before - they were everywhere and all over us!!!!”

The Unexpected Walrus: 
It’s smarter, more dangerous, and more musical, than you might think.
by Jeremy Berlin
On ice floes and rocky beaches in the far North Atlantic, cinnamon brown blobs pile up in living heaps. Some weigh more than a ton. Some are longer than ten feet. Each is a rumpled portrait of buckteeth and whiskers, deep scars and bloodshot eyes. They nap, burp, squabble, and bark—“something between the mooing of a cow and the deepest baying of a mastiff,” noted a 19th-century explorer.
Walruses may seem familiar from Beatles lyrics and Lewis Carroll verses, but most of us will never see a herd in the wild. And few photographers have documented this dangerous, musical, and socially sophisticated pinniped, a fin-footed kin to seals, sea lions, and sea elephants.“I used myself as bait,” says Paul Nicklen, who spent three weeks aiming his lens at Atlantic walruses with the help of Swedish diver Göran Ehlmé.
“I sat on the shore, and the walruses would come along. They’d get curious. But they have to hit you with their tusks to figure out what you are. And for a walrus to hit one of us can be lethal…”
(read more: National Geo)
Photo by Paul Nicklen

The Unexpected Walrus:

It’s smarter, more dangerous, and more musical, than you might think.

by Jeremy Berlin

On ice floes and rocky beaches in the far North Atlantic, cinnamon brown blobs pile up in living heaps. Some weigh more than a ton. Some are longer than ten feet. Each is a rumpled portrait of buckteeth and whiskers, deep scars and bloodshot eyes. They nap, burp, squabble, and bark—“something between the mooing of a cow and the deepest baying of a mastiff,” noted a 19th-century explorer.

Walruses may seem familiar from Beatles lyrics and Lewis Carroll verses, but most of us will never see a herd in the wild. And few photographers have documented this dangerous, musical, and socially sophisticated pinniped, a fin-footed kin to seals, sea lions, and sea elephants.“I used myself as bait,” says Paul Nicklen, who spent three weeks aiming his lens at Atlantic walruses with the help of Swedish diver Göran Ehlmé.

“I sat on the shore, and the walruses would come along. They’d get curious. But they have to hit you with their tusks to figure out what you are. And for a walrus to hit one of us can be lethal…”

(read more: National Geo)

Photo by Paul Nicklen

Walruses  (Odobenus rosmarus)
… are year-round residents of the arctic oceans. Their huge bulk is an adaptation to the cold of the long arctic winter, lowering their surface area-to-volume ratio to keep more heat inside. Males can grow up to 12 feet (3.6 m) long and weigh an average of 2000 lbs (900 kg). They also wear a very thick skin - the skin itself can be up to 4 inches (10 cm) thick on parts of their body, and the blubber layer underneath an additional 6 inches (15 cm). 
Their most familiar feature is, of course, their tusks; these can grow up to 3.3 feet (1 m) long. They’re used mainly for dominance and other social displays, and the strongest males with the largest tusks are usually at the head of a group. They may also use their tusks to break holes in the ice and to help pull themselves out of the water, but the long teeth aren’t used in feeding. Walruses eat crustaceans and invertebrates from the sea floor in the shallow areas just offshore. 
They find their prey using their faceful of whiskers, called vibrissae. Each is exceptionally sensitive, and with them the walrus can distinguish food items as small as a tenth of an inch (3 mm). Walruses have two other interesting anatomical features: they have an air pouch in their throat that they can inflate to allow them to hang suspended vertically in the water to sleep; and they have the largest baculum (the bone in the penis) of any animal, both relative to body size and in absolute terms, at up to 25 inches (63 cm) long.
photo by Polar Cruises on Flickr
(via: Peterson Field Guides)

Walruses (Odobenus rosmarus)

… are year-round residents of the arctic oceans. Their huge bulk is an adaptation to the cold of the long arctic winter, lowering their surface area-to-volume ratio to keep more heat inside. Males can grow up to 12 feet (3.6 m) long and weigh an average of 2000 lbs (900 kg). They also wear a very thick skin - the skin itself can be up to 4 inches (10 cm) thick on parts of their body, and the blubber layer underneath an additional 6 inches (15 cm).

Their most familiar feature is, of course, their tusks; these can grow up to 3.3 feet (1 m) long. They’re used mainly for dominance and other social displays, and the strongest males with the largest tusks are usually at the head of a group. They may also use their tusks to break holes in the ice and to help pull themselves out of the water, but the long teeth aren’t used in feeding. Walruses eat crustaceans and invertebrates from the sea floor in the shallow areas just offshore.

They find their prey using their faceful of whiskers, called vibrissae. Each is exceptionally sensitive, and with them the walrus can distinguish food items as small as a tenth of an inch (3 mm). Walruses have two other interesting anatomical features: they have an air pouch in their throat that they can inflate to allow them to hang suspended vertically in the water to sleep; and they have the largest baculum (the bone in the penis) of any animal, both relative to body size and in absolute terms, at up to 25 inches (63 cm) long.

photo by Polar Cruises on Flickr

(via: Peterson Field Guides)