Espolarte - Marine mammals - Galápagos Fur Seal

Galápagos Fur Seal

Arctocephalus galapagoensis


Photo: Kelly J. Kane. Published under GFDL licence

The Galápagos Fur Seal, the smallest of the pinnipeds, is a member of the eared seal family (Otariidae).

Description

Length 1.5 m (males), 1.2 m (females). Weight 65 kg (males), 27 kg (females). Pups weigh about 4 kg at birth. Adult males are heavy-bodied and have a mane. Females are much smaller. Head is small, with a short, pointed snout. Both males and females have a brown pelage, darker on the back, lighter on the belly. Young calves are black.

Natural history

Diet is poorly known, but includes squid. Lives in large rookeries. Males are polygynous and defend their breeding territories against other males. Pupping takes place between August and October; females are mated again 8 days after giving birth. Pups are lactated for up to 2 years, even after another pup was born. Galápagos Fur Seals may be killed by Killer Whales; young pups are also preyed upon by feral dogs.

Distribution

The Galápagos Fur Seal is endemic to the Galápagos Islands. Largest rookeries are along the western coasts of the islands. The animals remain around the islands year-round.

Status and threats

Galápagos Fur Seals were hunted during the 19th century. Since 1933, the species was protected by Ecuadorian law. In 1959, a national park was founded on the Galápagos Islands, and conservation measures have been successful since then. The population is steadily growing, and now numbers around 30,000. El Niño phenomenon caused severe mortality in 1982 and 1997. The species is still considered as vulnerable.