Mediterranean Monk Seal

Mediterranean Monk Seal

Photo taken by Giovanni Dall’Orto

Mediterranean Monk Seal – Monachus monachus

Description

The males feature dark black hair while the females are dark brown or grey. All of the Mediterranean Monk Seals have a pale watch patch on them located on the belly. The size and shape of it is unique for each one of them. Researchers use these white patches to identify the individuals when they are observing them in the wild. They also feature two pairs of nipples that are retractable. No other seals in the world have this feature.

Distribution

True to their name, the Mediterranean Monk Seal is found in the Mediterranean Sea. They are also found around the Eastern portion of the Atlantic Ocean.

Behavior

These are very calm and mellow seals out there, and they tend to be loners even though they live in the same proximity. They are also very quiet, with the majority of their sounds being before they wish to mate with another. They live a very solitary existence that is quite routine.

Diet /Feeding

This particular type of seal hunted for food during the day and then sleeps and rests at night. They consume fish, mollusks, octopus, and squid. They are able to dive deep into the water too when they need to find more food to sustain them. However, most of the time they only go about 230 feet into the water.

With the number of them being so low, there tends to be more than enough of a food source for them to survive on. However, there are often fishermen in these same areas and so they can become competition. They swallow their food instead of chewing it and they move along the water very slowly looking for their prey.

Reproduction

Males and females of this species of seal are about to start reproducing around four years of age. There isn’t very much known about this process though and researchers continue to try to piece it all together. There are a few key elements that they have been able to identify though. For example this is one of the few seals that give birth in the water as most of them do on land. They seek out deep caves in the water where they will have their pups.

It is also known that they reproduce from September to November. While many pups are born each year, less than half of them survive the first two months of life. It is believed the many storms that occur in the natural environment for the Mediterranean Monk Seals is the main cause of their death.

It is also believed that these pups don’t have the best genetic materials anymore. This is due to limited selection when it comes to breeding. With so few of them left in the world they are too closely linked to each other.

Conservation

If the Mediterranean Monk Seal is going to survive, then very proactive conservation efforts have to be made. There are only about 450 of them left in the world and that means time is running out to increase their numbers. They are very high on the list of endangered animals at this point in time. With the right conditions these seals can live in the wild up to 25-30 years.

Human Interaction

Researchers believe that the Mediterranean Monk Seal is very shy and doesn’t like to be around humans. This could explain why they have moved from giving birth on land to doing so in the caves under the water. As people continue to move closer and closer into the natural habitat area of these seals it is going to require them to continue further adaptations of their current behaviors.