Understanding Elephant Seals

Nov 7, 2013

They’re huge, prodigious divers, and familiar visitors to parts of the northern California coast. Yet Elephant Seals are also calm and approachable for scientists who are gradually coming to understand the massive mammals.

Elephant seals are so named for the males’ large proboscis, as well as their overall size. And it is the inner workings of that prominent nose, explains Dr. Bob Rubin, that enables the creatures to remain ashore, awaiting their mating season, for up to three months, without eating or even drinking water for that entire time.

Dr. Bob Rubin

Rubin was part of an elephant seal study that helped discover the inner workings of those exaggerated snouts. It was, he recalls, a research project that relied on the animal’s generally passive demeanor.


In addition to understanding the abilities and behaviors of the elephant seals themselves, researchers are also beginning to explore some parallels between the big mammals and certain aspects of human health.

Dr. Rubin will offer an illustrated talk about elephant seals at the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation’s Heron Hall, on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 9 at 3 pm. Find out more about the event here (scroll down).