Hawaiian Monk Seal

The Hawaiian monk seal, also popular as ‘ilio holo I ka uaua’, is an endangered species of earless seal, native to Hawaii. Known for its plump figure and lounging attitude, they belong to the family Phocidae, named so for its lack of external ears and inability to turn around its hind flippers under the body. Hawaiian monk seals are mostly seen basking on the sandy beaches of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. Read on to know more about this Hawaiian mammal!

Hawaiian Monk Seal

Hawaiian Monk Seal


Scientific Classification of Hawaiian Monk Seal

Kingdom:     Animalia

Phylum:        Chordata

Class:            Mammalia

Order:           Carnivora

Clade:            Pinnipedia

Family:          Phocidae

Genus:          Neomonachus

Species:       N. schauinslandi

Hawaiian Monk Seal Physical Description

Check with the physical traits of the Hawaiian monk seal mentioned below:-

  • Body – Hawaiian monk seals have streamline bodies featuring large hind flippers and smaller front flippers. They use their hind flippers to push themselves along. Their front flippers act as rudders. Their slender and torpedo-shaped body, makes them look different from their cousin, harbor seal. It is also because of their physical structure that they are often called as ‘Ilio holo I ka uaua, which means, “dog that runs in rough water”.

  • Color – Adults are basically dark grey to brown on their back and light grey to yellowish brown on their belly part. Pups are black in texture and they look really adorable.

  • Length – These endangered marine mammals have a body length up to 2.4 m.
  • Weight – Both male and female monk seals weigh between 136 and 272 kgs.
  • Eyes – They have large black color eyes, which supports in underwater vision.
  • Head – Their heads are broad, flat, and relatively small in size. Featuring smooth vibrissae on each side with nostrils on top of the snout, monk seals have eight pairs of teeth in both upper and lower jaw.

  • Physical Description Hawaiian Monk Seal

    Physical Description Hawaiian Monk Seal

Hawaiian Monk Seal Distribution

The majority of their population is found on the North-Western Hawaiian Islands. They are the only marine mammal found solely in US waters. Besides, they are also seen around Kaua’i, Ni’ihau, and French Frigate Shoals.

Distributed Range of Hawaiian-Monk

Distributed Range of Hawaiian-Monk

As per archaeological and historical data, the Hawaiian Islands have been home to these mammals for millions of years.

Hawaiian Monk Seal Habitat

Monk seals prefer spending most of their time underwater, especially in sub-tropical waters of reefs and surrounding islands. Apart from foraging in deeper water, monk seals breed and bask on the sand, corals, and volcanic rocks. Pups are usually found resting on sandy beaches.

Habitat of Hawaiian Monk Seal

Habitat of Hawaiian Monk Seal

Behavior of Hawaiian Monk Seal

  • These species are solitary in nature.
  • They prefer living alone or with a few others. This is why they are named as “monk” seals.
  • Monk seals enjoy resting on sunny beaches as much as tourists do.
  • They are amazing swimmers and this is why they love staying under water most of the time.
  • They hunt for food at night.
  • Their great vision helps them find food easily.
  • Unless it is mating season, they are quiet.

Hawaiian Monk Seal Diet

When it comes to food, there is quite a bit of selection in the Hawaiian Islands. Monk seals are fond of eating fish, lobster, octopus, and eels. They also prey on bony fish, cephalopods, and crustaceans.

Diet of Hawaiian Monk Seal

Diet of Hawaiian Monk Seal

Both juvenile and adult seals prey on octopus species. Finding food underwater is not at all a difficult task for these mammals. Unless there have been tropical storms, there is plenty of food available for these seals. Because of foraging plasticity, they are known to be opportunistic predators, which means they feed on a variety of available prey.

Hawaiian Monk Seal Predators

Though quiet in nature, Hawaiian monks chance upon a wide range of predators like tiger sharks, great white sharks, and Galapagos sharks.

Hawaiian Monk Seal Adaptation

The entire species of Hawaiian seal monks adapt themselves very well to the environment.

  • They perfectly deal with the warm climate of the Hawaiian Islands.
  • They use the ocean temperature to keep themselves cold and make use of the warm weather and sand to warm up during a long nap.

  • They survive cold water by preserving fat like polar seals.
  • Their streamline bodies help them swim faster.
  • The presence of flippers helps them glide easily through waves of water.
  • Their thick layers of blubber act as an insulator.

Hawaiian Monk Seal Reproduction

These mammals usually mate with each other during the spring and summer season. The female monk seals achieve sexual maturity at the tender age of 5 and 6 years. Basically polygamous by nature, male monks have the tendency to mate with more than one female at a time.

Reproduction of Hawaiian Monk Seal

Reproduction of Hawaiian Monk Seal

Hawaiian monk seals are aggressive in nature and they indulge in violent sexual activities with their partners. They are born within a year of mating. Pups are born on beaches and are taken care of by the mother seals for about five to six weeks. Female seals are been observed to foster the offspring of similar species.

Hawaiian Monk Seal Life Span

The life expectancy of these mammals is somewhere between 25-30 years.

Hawaiian Monk Seal Fun facts

Here we bring some interesting facts about the Hawaiian monk seal. Take a look;

  • Monk seals can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes
  • They can dive for more than 1800 feet
  • These species are endangered
  • They have the lowest level of genetic variability
  • Monk seals have the amazing ability to reduce their heartbeat to as low as 4 to 15 beats per minute. This condition is known as Bradycardia

Hawaiian Monk Seal Diseases

Some of the infectious diseases that may cause harm to the Hawaiian monk seal are distemper viruses, West Nile virus, and Toxoplasma gondii. The effects of these diseases could be disastrous.

Hawaiian Monk Seal Threats

Factors threatening these mammals include low juvenile survival rate, growing male aggression, and skewed gender ratios. Human hunting is also considered for being a reason for their drastic fall in survival rate.

Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation

According to the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Hawaiian monk seals are declared as the most endangered species in US water. Organizations are putting in extra effort to conserve these species. There have emerged many federal agencies in order to promote the conservation of endangered seals and also their efficient management. NOAA Fisheries and partners are also executing several means and measures to recuperate the loss of these mammals. As per reports, all these initiatives have proved to be beneficial.

Hawaiian Monk Seal Video

Pictures of Hawaiian Monk Seal

Reproduction of Hawaiian Monk Seal

Reproduction of Hawaiian Monk Seal

Diet of Hawaiian Monk Seal

Diet of Hawaiian Monk Seal

Habitat of Hawaiian Monk Seal

Habitat of Hawaiian Monk Seal

Physical Description Hawaiian Monk Seal

Physical Description Hawaiian Monk Seal

Hawaiian Monk Seal

Hawaiian Monk Seal

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