How did the elephant seal survive being driven to the brink of extinction in the nineteenth century? What variables determine the lifetime reproductive success of individual seals? How have elephant seals adapted to tolerate remarkable physiological extremes of nutrition, temperature, asphyxia, and pressure? Answering these questions and many more, this book is the result of the author's 50-year study of elephant seals. The chapters cover a broad range of topics including diving, feeding, migration and reproductive behavior, yielding fundamental information on general biological principles, the operation of natural selection, the evolution of social behavior, the formation of vocal dialects, colony development, and population changes over time. Elephant Seals: Pushing the Limits on Land and at Sea will be a valuable resource for graduate students and researchers of marine mammal behavior and reproductive life history as well as for amateur naturalists interested in these fascinating animals.
1. Origins, misnomers, and bottleneck
2. Back from the abyss, recovery and genetic aftermath
3. The year of the seal
4. Fieldwork 101: getting there and getting started
5. Adapting to life at sea and on land
6. The cost of living in a seal harem
7. Coito ergo sum: males explained
8. Females: designed to reproduce
9. Diving, foraging, and migration
11. Sleep when you can
12. What is all the noise about?
13. Comparisons, unsolved mysteries, and conclusions
Bernard J. Le Boeuf is an Emeritus Professor of Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is considered one of the pioneers of the field of marine mammal behaviour, known particularly for his studies of seal social behaviour, diving behaviour, diving physiology and migration. He has published widely on topics in reproductive behaviour, ecology and behavioural biology.
"Every person interested in enigmatic animals will enjoy reading this book that tells the story of the Northern Elephant Seal. This animal knows the Pacific in its width and depth and yet returns to a spot on the beach every year to reproduce in a crowded colony fiercely competing with its neighbours to achieve maximal fitness. With his decades-long dedication to the study of elephant seals, Le Boeuf presents a wonderful broad picture of this amazing animal and unravels the secrets of its natural history."
– Fritz Trillmich, Bielefeld University, Germany
"In 13 chapters and nearly 200 pages Le Boeuf details the remarkable life history of the northern elephant seal that breeds in his university's backyard of Ano Nuevo Island and nearby beaches in central California. There is no one better suited to write this story. He has been engaged in studies of this champion marine mammal diver since inception of work began on the western shores of the Pacific from Guadalupe Island to the Farallon Islands. A valuable book for anyone interested in deep diving mammals, how they work, their conservation, and owning a classic in natural history."
– Gerald Kooyman, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, USA