Scientific Name: Monachus schauinslandi
Hawaiian monk seals are named for their bald bodies, their solitary nature, and the hood-like fold of skin behind their head that resembles a monk's hood. Their Hawaiian name is Ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua, meaning "the dog that runs in rough (seas)." Interestingly, Hawaiian monk seals are thought of as living fossils because their current body structure has changed very little compared to fossils from 15 million years ago. They are an endangered species that live almost exclusively in the waters surrounding the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
Hawaiian monk seals grow to about 2 meters (about 7 feet) in length and weigh between 180-275 kilograms (400 and 600 pounds). Female seals are usually larger than males. Females begin to have pups when they are about six years old and have one pup at a time, usually between March and June.
Hawaiian monk seals do not migrate seasonally like other seals. However, they do travel many miles in the Hawaiian Islands region and spend months at sea without coming to shore. Monk seals eat fishes, octopuses, eels, and spiny lobsters found in shallow waters close to shore.
The main predator of the Hawaiian monk seal is the shark. However, human hunting and commercial fishing have also significantly affected the population throughout history. The current population is estimated to be about 1,500 individuals, making them one of the most endangered mammals in the world.
Research Links Related to Hawaiian Monk Seal:
- Earthtrust - Hawaiian Monk Seals
Biology and natural history plus factors affecting populations.
- Midway Atoll -- Hawaiian Monk Seal
Fact sheet with links to other animals on Midway.
- Museum of Zoology - Animal Diversity Web - University of Michigan -- Monk Seal
Geographic range, habitats, physical description, gestation, birth weight, behavior, food habits, economic importance to humans and conservation status.
- National Geographic -- Monk Seal
Photos and multimedia audio, fact sheet.
- NOAA - Hawaiian Monk Seal
Links to recovery programs, ongoing research, stock status in Marine Mammal Research Program.
- NOAA - Monk Seal Mission Log
2006 NOAA teacher-at-sea mission log for Hawaiian monk seal on Kure Atoll.
- NOAA - Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center
Information on the Captive Care and Release Research Project for the Hawaiian Monk Seal. Photos (Midway Atoll).
- Photograph of Hawaiian Monk Seal
Close-up picture of a Hawaiian Monk Seal.
- Pinnipeds.org -- Hawaiian Monk Seal
Covers distribution, status and lifestyle. Great photos.