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Animal Database
Caribbean Monk Seal
1910 photo of a Caribbean monk seal in NY aquarium
Specimen in the New York Aquarium 1910.
Information
Common Name West Indian Seal, Sea Wolf
Range Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and the west Atlantic Ocean.
Scientific Classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Carnivora
Family Phocidae
Genus Neomonachus
Species N. tropicalis
Conservation Status
EXSpecies
Extinct

The Caribbean monk seal, west Indian seal (Monachus tropicalis), or sea wolf, as early explorers referred to it, was a species of seal native to the Caribbean that is now believed to be extinct. The Caribbean monk seals' main predators were sharks and humans. Overhunting of the seals for oil, and overfishing of their food sources, is the established reason for the seals' extinction. The last confirmed sighting of the Caribbean Monk Seal was in 1952 at Serranilla Bank, between Jamaica and Nicaragua.[3] It was placed on the endangered species list in 1967, but was likely already extinct at that time. In 2008 the species was officially declared extinct by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Marine Fisheries Service. Despite this, stories of Carribbean Monk Seal sightings are relatively common in places such as Haiti and Jamaica. Caribbean Monk Seals were closely related to the Hawaiian monk seals (Neomonachus schauinslandi) and Mediterranean monk seals (Monachus monachus). A collection of Caribbean monk seal bones can be found at the Tropical Crane Point Hammock Museum in Key Vaca.

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Depiction by Henry W. Elliott (1884)[1]


Description[]

The Caribbean monk seal could grow up to 8 feet long and weigh up to 600 pounds. Males were likely larger than females, similarly to Mediterranean monk seals. The Caribbean monk seal has a rounded head with wide-set eyes. They were a brown/gray color, with a lighter underside. They were born lighter, and grew darker with age. They had been sighted with algae growth in their fur, which may have made some have a greenish tint to their coloration.

Location[]

Caribbean monk seals were native to the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. They also spread out well into the Atlantic Ocean and the east coast of Central America, hauling out on the low sandy beaches.


Gallery[]

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