Sunday, January 25, 2009

Molting seal, Gonzales Bay, Victoria

Yesterday's evening walk down to Gonzales Beach yielded a pleasant surprise – a juvenile elephant seal, looking much like a piece of driftwood, lying in the sand. Elephant seals are shielded from extreme cold by their blubber, more so than by fur. The animals' hair and outer layers of skin molt periodically. The skin has to be re-grown by blood vessels reaching through the blubber. When molting occurs, the seal is susceptible to the cold, and must rest on land, in a safe place called a "haul-out." While most animals shed hairs year-around, elephant seals do it all at once. The molting process is so abrupt that it is called a catastrophic molt.

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