Shark-eating seal among rare and ridiculously stunning scenes documented off South Africa
By: Pete Thomas, GrindTV.com
Chris and Monique Fallows have witnessed many extraordinary events while diving off South Africa.
But during two recent expeditions they captured wildly spectacular scenes that may never have been photographed: that of a voracious cape fur seal boldly snacking on large sharks; and dozens of blue sharks gathered around and gorging on an enormous ball of bait fish.
Of the former event, revealing the raw dynamics of the food chain, Chris Fallows said: “There were eight guests aboard our vessel, many of them seasoned wildlife enthusiasts. None had ever seen anything like this as sharks of this size are certainly not usually considered food for seals.
"In more than 2,000 expeditions working with sharks over the last 21 years, this is the only time I have ever seen a seal kill several sharks and I can find no record of such an event happening elsewhere."
The seal consumed the stomach and livers of the first two sharks, before killing three others…
The largest of all seal species, the southern elephant seal (Mirounga leonina) is found in chilly Antarctic and Subantarctic waters. The male seals dive as deep as 1,430 m (over 4,600 ft) and stay at depth for up to two hours.
Scientists encountered this young elephant seal while deploying hydrophones in the Southern Ocean. The hydrophones were designed to detect and/or monitor sounds under water, allowing scientists to study the tectonic and volcanic environment of the Bransfield Strait and Drake Passage.
Walruses use their tusks to haul themselves out of the water. Their scientific name Odobenus comes from Greek words meaning “tooth walk.” Here a close-up of a walrus in the Chukchi Sea, north of the Bering Strait, between Alaska and Siberia.
(via: Live Science) (photo: Sarah Sonsthagen, USGS)
A “killer walrus” thought to have terrorized the North Pacific 15 million years ago may not have been such a savvy slayer after all, researchers say.
A new analysis of fossil evidence of the prehistoric beast shows it was more of a fish-eater than an apex predator with a bone-crushing bite.
Traces of the middle Miocene walrus, named Pelagiarctos thomasi, were first found in the 1980s in the Sharktooth Hill bone bed of California. A chunk of a robust jawbone and sharp pointed teeth, which resembled those of the bone-cracking hyena, led researchers to believe the walrus ripped apart birds and other marine mammals in addition to the fish that modern walruses eat today.
But a more complete lower jaw and teeth from the long-gone species were recently discovered in the Topanga Canyon Formation near Los Angeles. Researchers say the shape of the teeth from this new specimen suggest the walrus was unlikely adapted to regularly feed on large prey. Instead, they think it was a generalist predator, feasting on fish, invertebrates and the occasional warm-blooded snack…
Weddell Seals, like the happy one above, love the cold. These seals are found farther south than any other mammal, diving and hunting under the permanent ice that surrounds the Antarctic coast. Thick layers of blubber allow the Weddell seals to withstand the freezing temperatures.
Arctic snowfall accumulation plays a critical role in ringed seal breeding, but may be at risk due to climate change, according to a new study in Geophysical Research Letters. Sea ice, which is disappearing at an alarming rate, provides a crucial platform for the deep snow seals need to reproduce.
Ringed seals (Phoca hispida) require snow depths of at least 20 centimeters (8 inches): deep enough to form drifts that seals use as birth chambers. Ringed seals rear their young in April, which also makes the timing of adequate snow depths critical.
“Depending on how fast greenhouse gases increase this century, the area of Arctic sea ice with at least 20 centimeters of snow in April could decrease by nearly 70 percent,” says co-author Cecilia Bitz, associate professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington…
(read more: MongaBay) (photos: Ringed Seal pups, NOAA)
Arctic summer sea ice is the walrus equivalent of a maternity ward and a mall food court.
But in the past five years, warming temperatures have caused substantial ice melt and left little to no ice for resting between feeding dives or giving birth, leading Pacific walruses to change their habits, U.S. Geological Survey scientists announced at a news conference in Anchorage, Alaska, on Wednesday (Nov. 14).
When sea ice disappeared, the bewhiskered, bellowing mammals spent more time on land and foraged close to shore, instead of at their rich feeding grounds at sea. Females also gave birth on land, putting babies at risk of trampling by adults. In addition, walruses spent more time traveling at sea, putting them at risk of running into ships or other human activities. The research was presented at the news conference and published in this month’s issue of the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series…
Larger than their Atlantic walrus cousins, Pacific walruses can weigh up to 4,400 pounds (2,000 kilograms). Once hunted heavily, the biggest threat to walruses in recent times is climate change. As ocean habitats warm, receding sea ice is forcing the beasts to stay on land in overcrowded conditions.
Grist: Meet New York Aquarium’s adorable new rescued baby walrus
by Jess Zimmerman
Baby walrus calf Mitik was discovered, orphaned and ailing, off the coast of Alaska in July. Now he’s all grown up — he’s still a baby, but he weighs 234 pounds, which is pretty grown indeed — and he’s traveling all the way from Alaska to New York City, possibly with his head in his keeper’s lap the whole way.
Mitik won’t be on display in his new home at the New York Aquarium until spring, so until then, you’ll need to watch videos of him on YouTube. Back before Mitik had a name, we posted this one of him snuggling with an Alaska Sea Life Center worker.
The New York Aquarium already has two walruses, Kula and Nuka, but they’re such social creatures that it’s important they never be left alone. Since Nuka is getting up there in years, the aquarium is bringing in Mitik as a backup so Kula won’t be lonely if she dies. But it’s not just for Kula’s sake — they’re also taking Mitik because he’s an orphan who needs a home, and because he’s a super-cute chubby-wubby baby-woobly walrus-face…