New Brighton School
New Brighton school was full of eager young minds! Did you know, they don’t call their grades the same things we do? We say ‘I’m in fifth grade,’ but in New Zealand, they say ‘I’m in year five’. So, I’m going to practice what I learned. I taught my program to 52 students in years 5 through 8. I also taught 54 students in years 3 and 4. I focused on a footprints theme while I was teaching at New Brighton. We also had fun trying on my famous coat, Big Red!
The kids at New Brighton Suggested I head out to Kaikoura if I wanted to see some more seals. Everywhere I go, I seem to be surrounded by PinnipedsPinnipeds are aquatic mammals that use flippers for movement on land and in water such as seals, sea lions, and walruses. Pinniped means "fin-footed."! That’s alright; I’m a big fan of these loveable mammals so I headed out to Kane Point. To my surprise, I found these furry friends lounging on the rocks.
These are Fur seals. However, their name is misleading. They aren’t seals at all! They are sea lions. Remember my journal about the Pinnipedia suborder? A Pinniped is a marine mammal that can live on land and in the water. Both seals and sea lions are part of this sub order. But what makes a sea lion different from a seal? Sea lions have external ear flaps, long flippers that can support their body in an upright position, and thicker fur. Check out the picture a see if you can spot the differences. I was wondering about some of the other differences between a Weddell seal and a Kaikoura Sea lion. I bet you are curious too! Here is what I learned.
These Sea lions aren’t too picky when it comes to chow time. These guys are good at adapting their diets to whatever creatures are available in their environment. Some Sea lion favorites are lantern fish, squid, and octopus. Unlike the Weddell seal, Sea lions don’t often have to dive for long periods of time to catch a snack. The water off-shore at Kaikoura Canyon is rich with yummy aquatic meals for Sea lions.
Do you think there is any ice in Kaikoura? No! These Sea lions don’t have to worry about reaming the ice to maintain their breathing hole. Sea lions can jump in and out of the water as they please. Their teeth are not angled in their mouth like the Weddell seal’s teeth.
Don’t be misled though, these sea lions still have some major chompers to help them catch and hold on to flighty prey!
Though New Zealand may have some chilly weather, it’s nothing compared to the freezing temperatures in Antarctica. Notice how much slimmer these sea lions look compared to the Weddells. Sea lions don’t need as much blubber to keep them warm. Instead, they use their blubber primarily to store energy.
Without all that blubber, how do Sea lions keep warm on a frosty day? The fur of a Sea lion is very different from the fur of a Weddell seal. The inner layer of Sea lion fur is soft and fine to trap lots of warm air near the skin. Their outer layer is much longer than the Weddell seals fur and acts as a protective layer. You will also notice a color difference. The sea lions have warm gold-brown fur that retains more oils than the Weddell seal’s fur.
Like I said before, Fur seals don’t take long to catch a meal. Why do you think they have an easier time catching food? Well, the warmer climate of New Zealand means phytoplankton grow near the ocean surface for a greater amount of time each year. The fish that eat the phytoplankton stay close to the surface too. In fact, most of the aquatic life thrives closer to the ocean surface meaning Fur seals rarely have to dive deep to find a tasty morsel. Sea lions are still expert divers that can dive for about 30 minutes at a time and swim up to 40 kilometers an hour! These guys love water so much, they will even sleep under water. They can surface for air while they sleep without ever waking up! Talk about a deep sleeper.
Sea lions have pups and like Weddell seals, they are pretty cute! The relationship between the sea lion mom and pup is different from that of the Weddell seal. Weddell seals nurse and raise their pups in only 6 weeks! After that, the pup is on its own. Fur seals spend four months nursing, teaching, and protecting their pups. The Sea lions have more time to grow and learn.
Like Weddell seals, Fur seals are old enough to have their own babies at 5 to 7 years old. Both species mate once a year at breeding grounds during the breeding seasons.
So, there are some striking similarities and differences between Fur seals and Weddell Seals. The moderate environment that surrounds the Fur seal enables them to have a more relaxed life style. The Fur seal has no need to adapt to the harsh Antarctic environment so they do not have as many special physical features as the Weddell seal. However, I still think both these members of the Pinniped family are pretty neat. I’m so excited I got to meet a few new members of the Weddell seal Family!