Southern elephant seal
Photo: R Kirkwood
Scientific name: Mirounga leonina
Weight: Females: 360 – 800 kg;
males: average 3700 kg (but can reach 5000 kg)
Length: Females 2.5 – 4.0 m,
males 4.5 – 6.5 m
Breeding age: 2 – 6 years for females, approximately 10 years for males
Breeding frequency: Annual
Breeding season: September – October
Age to weaning: 3.0 – 3.5 weeks
Longevity: 23 years for females, 15 years for males
Name Derivation: The genus name (Mirounga) is derived from 'miouroung', a name given to these seals by Australian aboriginals, and leonina is Latin for ‘lion’.
What do I eat? Fish and squid
What eats me? Killer whales, leopard seals also take pups
Depth of water where foraging: Generally 400 – 600 m, females dive deeper than males
Extreme dive depth/time: 1444 m / 2 hours
Distribution & Abundance
Distribution: Breed and haul out in subantarctic regions. During non-breeding season, can migrate great distances in all directions.
Abundance: Approximately 750,000 with the highest number at South Georgia, and a substantial decrease at Macquarie Island.
Conservation Status: The species is a listed marine species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and is protected by a number of international agreements (e.g. listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (CCAS) under the Antarctic Treaty).
The species is also covered by the Sub-antarctic Fur Seal and Southern Elephant Seal Recovery Plan and the Action Plan for Australian Seals 1999.
Nearly 90% of males die before reaching social maturity.
More information on other Heard Island seals: