Mediterranean monk seal
There are three species of monk seal. The Hawaiian species is endangered, the Mediterranean species is critically endangered, but sadly it is too late for the Caribbean species, which has become extinct.
About 23 years.
Males (bulls): 2.4-2.6m, Females (cows): 2.4-2.8m. Adult weight: 250-300kg (maximum 400 kg)
The coloration of the upper side of the body is uniform brown and the lower underside is a spotted yellowish-white. The name is derived from the fact that the total body coloration looks like a monk's clothing.
The forelimbs have well developed flat claws but the toes of the hind limb are so well elongated that they may have no nails at all.
Mediterranean monk seals can be found in numerous small inlets and sea caves of the Mediterranean, Black Sea, and off the north-western coast of Africa to Madeira and the Canaries.
Seals typically seek food in water less than 30 metres deep, although an individual was reported to dive up to 75m deep. The diet consists of fish and octopus.
The social structure of the monk seal is still subject to further investigation by scientists. It is known that social groups consist of a large male and many females.
Mating occurs underwater and births occur from May to November, with peak births between September and October, after an 11 month pregnancy. Pups at birth are 84cm long and weigh 20kg.
The species is classed as Critically Endangered by the 2000 IUCN Red List. It faces hunting pressures from humans, which has accelerated in recent years owing to increases in fishing activities, and has been affected by motorised vessels and other human activity.
Although it is legally protected, it is regularly killed by fishermen who consider it a pest through competing for fish stocks and damaging nets.