Profile: Mediterranean Monk Seals

Key facts about the Mediterranean monk seal:

  • The Mediterranean monk seal is one of the most endangered species in the world. Their current numbers are estimated at less then 600.
  • Listed as critical endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN)
  • Sub-populations once existed throughout the Mediterranean, Marmara, and Black Seas as well as the Atlantic coast of Africa. However, now only two populations exist. One in the Northeastern Mediterranean and one in the Northeast Atlantic off the coast of Northwest Africa.
  • Historically they congregated on open sandy beaches and rocks but now they will often seek refuge in remote caves with underwater entrances. This behavior is believed to be a recent adaption in response to human encroachments on their habitat.
Description
Life Expectancy: 20 - 30 years

Length: 7 - 9 feet

Weight: 530 - 880 lbs

Appearance: Adult males are generally black with a lighter colored belly patch. Adult females are generally brown or gray with a lighter colored belly patch.
Taxonomy

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Phocidae
Genus: Monachus

Diet
The Mediterranean monk seal diet consists primarily of fish, rays, and cephalopods.
  • They may dive to 165-230 ft to forage however have been observed as deep as 1,640 feet by a NOAA submersible.
  • While foraging, they are able to hold their breath for 5-10 minutes.
  • May consume between 6 to 7 pounds of food per day.
  • Excess energy from prey is stored in the form of fat. This fat is essential to their long term survival as it provides needed nutrients when a seals fasts during nursing or molting.
Top Threats
  • Habitat Loss
  • Entanglement
  • Food shortages
  • Stochastic events
  • Deliberate killings
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Did you know?
One of the first coins, minted in approximately 500 BC depicts the head of a monk seal.
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