Hundreds of Starving Baby Sea Lions Wash Ashore in Mysterious Mass Stranding
By Nadia Drake
It began in January. At first, there were only a few. But as the weeks went on, more sea lion pups washed ashore. The dehydrated, emaciated pups showed up on Southern California’s beaches, tucked under trucks and lifeguard towers. One was found huddled in a flower pot.
In late January, scientists surveying Channel Island sea lion rookiers reported something worrying: Pups out there were in bad shape. By early February, regional marine mammal rescue centers were concerned. The strandings hadn’t stopped. Instead, the pace was picking up.
Now, hundreds of these little animals have been admitted to rescue centers between Santa Barbara and San Diego. For a non-El Niño year, the numbers are much too high, too early. Something is going badly wrong offshore, and no one knows what it is yet…
Seals and sea lions have many similarities, and are in the same family, the Pinnipeds, but they lead very different lives. Seals are generally smaller than sea lions; male Stellar sea lions can grow to be up to 2,200 pounds. Seals also are suited to spend more time in the water than sea lions, which can “walk” on shore with their large flippers and spend time in large social groups. Another give-away is that sea lions have external ear flaps, whereas seals don’t have external ears—if you look closely you can see tiny ear holes.
This Rare Fucking Seal Climbs onto Seattle Woman’s Dock
by Andrea Mustain
A Seattle resident recently got a big surprise when she discovered a strange-looking furry visitor on her property.
"She woke up and it was lying on her dock, hanging out and sleeping — just chilling," said Matthew Cleland, district supervisor in western Washington for the USDA’s Wildlife Services, and the recipient of a photo of the bizarre intruder.
A leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx) is seen in the port of Talcahuano near Concepcion city, some 311 miles south of Santiago, Chile, on August 24, 2012. The leopard seal from Antarctica was brought to a rescue center for marine animals after she was found injured, presumably hit by a small boat.
(via: TakePart.org) (Photo: Jose Luis Saavedra/Reuters)
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)