Friday, February 25, 2011
Pups Becoming Weaners
All but the last few exhausted mommy elephant seals have left to replenish their rapid weight loss which took place during their month-long shore sojurn. Giving birth and suckling their pups without possibility of leaving land for about 28 days to get some sustenance caused them to lose about 1/3 of the body weight they had when they first came ashore this winter.
The pups, most of whom are more than chubby this year, have been renamed weaners, weaned from suckling, and their only adult protection now is from some of the remaining large males.
Many of these weaners hang out in varying-sized groups known as weaner-pods. Whether they do so for safety in numbers, for comfort from physical closeness to others, for warmth, for the social aspect or what, the scientists are not sure. One thing is sure, though, their interactions with one another are often hilarious to watch.
Over the next month or so, the black/brown pup fur will be exchanged for the eye-catching silver gray fur that's specific for the weaners during their first year. Like all sea-going creatures, their new backside fur is darker than their belly fur, making them less visible to their predators in the ocean.
During their first month as weaners, they will start exploring the shallow tide-pools and/or creeks honing their vital foraging, swimming and diving skills. In so doing, they often get caught up in the ocean currents and land up, intentionally or otherwise, at a different beach, which I call this beach-hopping.
My next posting will deal with the adventures of maturing weaner.
Click here for more photos.