NEW INFORMATION ON THE NATURAL HISTORY, DISTRIBUTION, AND SKULL SIZE OF THE EXTINCT (?) WEST INDIAN MONK SEAL, MONACHUS TROPICALIS

Authors

  • Peter J. Adam,

    1. University of California, Los Angeles Department of Organism Biology, Ecology, and Evolutic 621 Charles Young Drive, South Los Angeles, California 90095–1606, U.S.A. E-mail: padam@ucla.edu and San Diego State University, Department of Biology, 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, California 92182, U.S.A. San Diego State University, Department of Biology, 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, California 92182, U.S.A
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  • Gabriela G. Garcia

    1. San Diego State University, Department of Biology, 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, California 92182, U.S.A.
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Abstract

Our knowledge of the extinct West Indian monk seal, Monachus tropicalis, is scant due to heavy exploitation following European colonization of the New World. We present previously unknown accounts of the species, including unpublished field notes of biologist E. W. Nelson, who observed a small number of wild seals in June of 1900. Records indicate that M. tropicalis may have had a long pupping season, occurred in large groups (up to 100) when abundant, probably ate fish and crustaceans, were preyed upon by sharks, and that young and adult seals may have assorted themselves into different age groups when hauled out. Additional records extend the known range of M. tropicalis to include the north coast of South America as far east as Guyana. We also present previously unavailable measurements from a large series of adult skulls and mandibles (n= 48). Two cases of histocytosis X, carcinoma, or other disease of the hard palate are documented from among these specimens.

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