Skull growth

During growth the male elephant seal skull not only becames bigger, but changes its shape. The main drive of this change is probably related to the elephant seal mating system. Males need to fight to get access to females, and, therefore, they need a skull well adapted to bite the other males and to fight.

Skull of a two year old male

Even when considering just potentially breeding males, aged 7 years or more, the variation in skull size and shape is definitely impressive.

Male skulls, 7 to 12 year old

Skulls of seven males aged 7 to 12 years, killed by orcas at Sea Lion island

The following image show the big difference between a 7 year old subadult (Smi) and a 12 year old adult (Gilbe). While Smi had a rather average body size for its age class, Gilbe was definitely a small adult male, so the comparison somehow underestimate the average difference between subadult ad adult males.

Smi vs Gilbe, side

Smi vs Gilbe, top

Smi vs Gilbe, bottom

Comparison of skulls, Smi (7 year) vs Gilbe (12 year), Smi's skull in red


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