Thursday, January 15, 2009

Guadelupe's other pinnipeds - California sealions

Northern elephant seals aren't the only pinnipeds on Guadelupe island, there are actually two other types of shark snack smaller species of pinniped. Of these one is a rare endemic found only on a couple of small islands like Guadelupe - the Guadelupe Fur Seal. This is a fur seal and hence more closely related to the sealions than the true seals. Its pretty big - sexually dimorphic with huge bulls having harems of females and covered in nice fur which meant like the elephant seal (but for fur not blubber) it took a clobbering from sealers up to the 19th century. GIFS was apparently down to a few dozen but is now back up to perhaps 10,000 individuals. As such the seals are spreading north in small numbers to a few other isolated islands including California's channel islands. I'm reasonably happy I may have seen one of these at Guadelupe but not entirely convinced and I certainly don't have a nice photo to show you. They do however look a lot like the Cape Fur Seals I photographed from a distance on South Africa's seal island. I don't by the way think its a coincidence that all 3 of the best places to see white sharks in the world (seal island, Guadelupe and Australia's Neptune Islands) have big populations of fur seals. I assume they must be either the easiest to catch, or most delicious, of all the pinnipeds - a seal equivalent of a cadbury's dairy milk if you will.

I can however show you a picture of the other, less rare, pinniped of Guadelupe - the California sealion and, to prove its at Guadelupe, lets show one with a shark in it too.....


Some would call this playing with fire.....

The sea lion above is basically indulging in the same behaviour our backyard birds do when mobbing a hawk or owl. Its far more maneuverable than the shark and has a number of obstacles to throw in the shark's path - the anchor chain (that line spoiling my photo), our cages and the boat itself - if things turn bad.


Of course its not all hard work and derring do when you're a sealion. A large proportion of their time seems to be taken up with chilling, making loud honking noises and smelling absolutley disgusting.


These are doing just that between San Francisco's famous piers.


Anonymous said...

I think the chain makes the photo more interesting.

ChrisC and JonJ said...

Beautiful photos!