A haunting image showing the bobbing head of an elephant seal, an eye still open on its pallid face, leaves little mystery as to what killed the mammal.
The image, captured Tuesday by Eric Mailander off Monterey, Calif., was posted to Facebook with the description: “A gruesome find on the Monterey Bay. The decapitated head of an elephant seal that was the victim of a very large white shark, judging from the tooth prints."
Adult white sharks congregate near Central California elephant seal rookeries in the fall, to feed on the blubbery pinnipeds, which can weigh up to 4,500 pounds.
Their attacks typically involve violent ambush strikes. A shark will often wait for a seal to bleed to death, after the initial bite, before feasting.
Stated Mailander, in reference to the seal: "Probably never knew what hit it.”
After spotting the floating head, Mailander radioed to a nearby Monterey Bay Whale Watch vessel, allowing its passengers to glimpse what was left of the mammal: its bloodless, whiskered face gazing blankly skyward.
Alisa Schulman-Janiger, a researcher and passenger aboard the whale-watching boat, described the reaction of the passengers as one of “morbid fascination.”
–Images are courtesy of Eric Mailander (top) and Alisa Schulman-Janiger