Saturday, July 28, 2012

Rules of Engagement

For the most part, adult male elephant seals appear quite mellow, appearing to sleep away much of their shore-time. However, be assured that these giants are fully aware of what's going on in their vicinity and can react quite fast when needs be.

Male elephant seals have very definitive rules of engagement. They challenge vocally. They toss and twirl their heads and trunks for intimidation. They advance. They stare their opponent down. They lunge and strike. Most challenges, though, are short-lived and end when one backs away.

Click here for more land-based action photos.

If an elephant seal wants another one to move, he may 'tell' him to move, or lunge forward and butt him with his head or trunk. If neither of these attempts succeeds, he will resort to biting the other. If even this physical encouragement fails, a verbal and/or physical exchange will quickly erupt and continue until one of them concedes.

Click here for more water-based action photos.

Currently, as the end of July nears, groups of these large marine mammals, each of about 100 individuals, can be seen on a couple of the beaches at the Piedras Blancas colony on the central California coast. You can even see some of the more active individuals exchanging blows in the shallows or on land as dominance within the group is being determined, or a member from another group is being challenged.

Click here to see some exciting slo-mo video of dominance struggles in the shallows.

If you are lucky, you can even see some of these giants as they confront one another under water.

Click here to see more underwater action photos.

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