Pinniped Species


Southern Elephant Seal

Scientific Name: Mirounga leonina
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Pinnipedia
Family: Phocidae
Genus: Mirounga
Species: leonina
Other Common Names: Southern elephant seal
Average Length:

Males – 13 to 20 feet
Females – 8 to 12 feet

Average Weight:

Males – 3300 to 6600 pounds
Females vary widely in mass from 1100 lbs to 2200 lbs shortly after giving birth


Southern elephant seals are primarily found in the subantarctic islands near the Antarctic Polar Front as well as mainland sites such as Peninsula Valdes, Argentina. South Georgia has the largest population with more than half of the entire species.


Southern elephant seals are enormous in size as they are the largest of all pinnipeds.  They received their name due to their elephant trunk-like noses.  Adults have a light to dark silvery-grey or brown coat.  Pups are born with a black coat that turns into a short lighter coat at about 3 weeks of age.

Diet in the Wild:

A wide assortment of larger fish, squid and occasionally penguins.


Some elephant seals forage in warmer waters associated with the Antarctic Polar Front or with eddies from the convergence of warm and cold water currents.  The majority of males forage in areas over the continental shelf while most females forage over deeper, offshore waters.


The breeding and pupping season for Southern elephant seals is between the months of September and November.  Females reach sexual maturity at about 2-4 years of age and while males can reach sexual maturity between the ages of 3-6 years though males usually will not begin breeding until they are about 10 years old.  Females will begin breeding and/or pupping 0-10 days after coming ashore and will not return to the ocean until after the pup is weaned at about 23 days of age, causing the mother to live off of whatever blubber she had when pupping began.  Breeding males arrive a month before the females and smaller males to fight for dominance and females. The mother usually mates 3-5 days before her pup is weaned before returning to the sea to feed.

Conservation Status:

For thousands of years Southern elephant seals were hunted for their oil; however, hunting is currently regulated by the International Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals.  With the exception of St. George, the Southern elephant seals’ population has decreased over the last 40 years due to entanglement and other forms of pollution and primarily as a result of a depleting food source.   Southern elephant seals are listed as “least concern” according to the IUCN.