Posted by: Sandy Steinman | February 2, 2020

Why do elephant seals have a large snout?

Point Reyes National Seashore writes about why elephant seals have a large snout

The Snout With Clout!
Male elephant seals have what are known as secondary sexual traits or physical traits that appear in members of one sex and are not directly concerned with reproduction. In elephant seals, the secondary sexual traits are more about asserting dominance over other males than attracting a female mate. The trait they are probably most famous for is their large fleshy proboscis (their snout).

But what is the function of this magnificent appendage?

Perhaps the size of the appendage is not a visual tool of intimidation, but an auditory one due to the sound it helps produce. The threat clap of the elephant seal is produced in the vocal chords, but it appears that the inflated chambers of the proboscis amplify the vocalization. What an elaborate way to say, “You don’t want to mess with me dude!”


Want to learn more fun facts about elephant seals and see what’s new every week during their breeding season? Check out our weekly updates here: https://go.nps.gov/pore/EsealUpdate


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