What Is a Sea Elephant?

sea-elephant Credit: Elizabeth Haslam/Flickr/CC-BY-2.0

Elephant seals, or sea elephants, are large mammals so named because the adult males' large proboscises, or noses, closely resemble the trunks of elephants. These ocean-going carnivores are the largest species of seal, averaging from 9 to 16 feet in length.

Elephant seals are divided into two species. Northern elephant seals are found in the northern hemisphere of the Pacific Ocean near the shores of Mexico, Canada and the United States. Southern elephant seals live in the cold sub-Antarctic and Antarctic waters, particularly on the coasts of Argentina, South Africa and New Zealand. Male sea elephants' large noses are used to produce tremendously loud roaring noises, normally heard during mating season. These long proboscises also help the males rebreathe and allow them to maintain vital moisture.