The Fatties

Southern elephant seals are amazing. They can dive deeper than 2000m, travel up to 150km per day (that’s 3m/s and faster than the Agulhas Current) and they spend as much as 80% of their lives in the most hostile waters on earth.

They’re also enormous fatties!

Photo by Dr. Trevor McIntyre

Bull elephant seals can reach a hefty 4 tons, and their relatively svelte counterparts weigh in at around 2 tons. It’s these ‘skinny girls’ that interest me. Over the Austral summer, while Capetonians plunder the wine farms, brave the beaches and picnic with gay abandon in Kirstenbosch, these seals give birth and wean their pups on Marion Island without eating a morsel.

Photo by Dr. Lars Boehme

While this anorexic mommy phase may be interesting to the average psychologist (and Heat Magazine), I only raise my ginger eyebrow when these seals head back into the water to binge. Why? Because these hostile Antarctic waters appear to be almost devoid of life when scrutinized by satellite… yet a mere six weeks later, these honeys are back on Marion Island and they’re fat fat FAT!

How do they do it? What are the satellites missing?
Cue: CSI theme tune…
I really wanna know.

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