NORTHERN ELEPHANT SEALS MATING

NORTHERN ELEPHANT SEALS- MatingHere’s a program from our archives.It has all the earmarks of tabloid headlines: an island getaway, sex, violence, power struggles, frustrated lovers, and even harems. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.ambience: Elephant seals We’re listening to the bellows of a 16 foot, two ton male northern elephant seal. This is their mating season. And the seals have come down from the North Pacific to breed on warm islands off the coast of Southern California and Mexico. They arrived a few weeks ago, and for some it’s a veritable mating frenzy. For others, it’s an exercise in frustration. Bernie LeBoeuf, a Professor of Biology at the University of California in Santa Cruz, sets the scene on Ao Nuevo, one of the elephant seals’ breeding grounds.LeBoeuf: Typically you have about 3000 elephant seals breeding there every winter. The species is also noted to be highly polygynous, a few males inseminate a great number of females. And that is only possible in a situation in which the females are clumped in time and space. These clumps of females are traditionally called harems. Then you’ll have more than one male in the harem competing with each other to mate with females, such that the male at the top of the peck order beats up every other male, and his reproductive success will be correlated with his rank.So the alpha male fights off his challengers, establishes his beach head and his harem, and what happens is, a little bachelor pad of lesser males camps out nearby. They’re waiting for any opportunity that might arise in the form of a stray female. Otherwise they have to sit on the sidelines, watching the big guy have all the fun, and saying the elephant seal equivalent of ‘Wait till next year.’Additional funding of Pulse of the Planet has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

NORTHERN ELEPHANT SEALS MATING

Sex, violence, and the two ton elephant seal.
Air Date:01/09/1997
Scientist:
Transcript:

NORTHERN ELEPHANT SEALS- MatingHere's a program from our archives.It has all the earmarks of tabloid headlines: an island getaway, sex, violence, power struggles, frustrated lovers, and even harems. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.ambience: Elephant seals We're listening to the bellows of a 16 foot, two ton male northern elephant seal. This is their mating season. And the seals have come down from the North Pacific to breed on warm islands off the coast of Southern California and Mexico. They arrived a few weeks ago, and for some it's a veritable mating frenzy. For others, it's an exercise in frustration. Bernie LeBoeuf, a Professor of Biology at the University of California in Santa Cruz, sets the scene on Ao Nuevo, one of the elephant seals' breeding grounds.LeBoeuf: Typically you have about 3000 elephant seals breeding there every winter. The species is also noted to be highly polygynous, a few males inseminate a great number of females. And that is only possible in a situation in which the females are clumped in time and space. These clumps of females are traditionally called harems. Then you'll have more than one male in the harem competing with each other to mate with females, such that the male at the top of the peck order beats up every other male, and his reproductive success will be correlated with his rank.So the alpha male fights off his challengers, establishes his beach head and his harem, and what happens is, a little bachelor pad of lesser males camps out nearby. They're waiting for any opportunity that might arise in the form of a stray female. Otherwise they have to sit on the sidelines, watching the big guy have all the fun, and saying the elephant seal equivalent of 'Wait till next year.'Additional funding of Pulse of the Planet has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.