Just an old elephant seal, or something more sinister?

I happened upon this elephant seal along the California coast (San Simeon area) a few years ago and I’ve always wondered about him. I’ve never seen an elephant seal nose that looks like that. He looks pretty old, but I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts as to the possible cause? Or is it simply normal?

I’d post it on iNat, you’ll get it in front of more eyes there.


Great photo. I’ve seen those seals at San Simeon, 30 years ago, and might even have slide photos of them somewhere. Can’t say if this is normal and/or age-related but seems atypical. I could make a joke about old men (like me) and old seals, but I won’t.


Could you pinpoint what you find abnormal? Looks like a regular elephant seal to me.


Looks like a normal old bull to me.

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They probably take a lot of hits to the neck from rival males, so older males would have to develop a lot of scar tissue after all that fighting.


I’m guess I’m used to seeing the bull elephant seals with a more full nose like this guy:


I found this: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Facial-development-of-southern-elephant-seals-with-age-The-pictures-show-different_fig2_233682258

It seems like their noses change shape with age, becoming “lumpier” as they get old. I’ve looked up pictures of old male elephant seals specifically and that seems to be the case!

The lumps and droop on this guy’s nose seem a bit more extreme, but they can sustain a lot of damage during fights. I wonder if some particular combination of injuries ultimate made the changes more pronounced.


Yeah, he’s definitely seen his share of battles! He was still incredibly active and fought off many rivals while trying to woo a female.

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