Diet: Small fish, fish eggs, clams, crabs and worms Habitat: Shallow ocean waters, kelp forests Status: Least Concern
Gentle Predators These small sharks swim along the coast from Oregon to Mexico. They are harmless to humans, but every year Californian fishermen catch up to 140 tons of leopard sharks for food and for the aquarium trade.
Why do you think their mouths are positioned pointing downwards?
A Seabird In the Trees Murrelets are seabirds, but they depend upon moist forests near the coast for breeding. They build their nests high up on lichen and moss-covered branches. Logging and development in California has dramatically reduced their population, making them a threatened species.
Scientific: Zalophus californianus Spanish: León marino de California Awaswas: Sullan (seal)
Diet: Fish, cephalopods Habitat: Nearshore, hauling out on rocks and pylons Status: Least Concern
These social creatures can often be seen congregating near harbors and wharves where they vocalize via “barking.” California sea lions are year-round residents of the Monterey Bay and can be distinguished from the seasonal Steller’s sea lion who are larger, lighter-colored, and whose males lack a bony crest on their skulls.
Pinnipeds Seals, sea lions and walruses are all pinnipeds which means “fin-footed.” Sea lions are not considered ‘true seals’ because they have external ear flaps and front flippers that allow them greater dexterity on land than other seals. Here in the Monterey Bay you can see the following pinnipeds throughout the year:
Diet: Crustaceans, fish Habitat: Open ocean, nearshore Status: Least Concern
Grey Whales can be spotted in the Monterey Bay in the winter as they migrate south to Baja and in the late spring when they migrate back north with their calves. Whale lice and barnacles cause the distinctive white patches on the backs of these whales.
Cetaceans Whales, dolphins and porpoises are all cetaceans and are some of the largest mammals in the oceans. Here in the Monterey Bay you can see the following cetaceans throughout the year:
Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus) | May – October
Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) | April – December
Grey Whale (Eschrichtius robustus) | December – May
Orca (Orcinus orca) | Year-round transients
Northern Right Whale Dolphin (Lissodelphis borealis) | Year-round
Scientific: Enhydra lutris nereis Spanish: Nutria marina del sur Mutsun: Suuyu
Diet: Urchins, shellfish, crabs and other invertebrates Habitat: Kelp forests, estuaries Status: Endangered
Back From Extinction But Still Endangered Sea otters are mustelids, the same family as weasels, badgers and wolverines. Unlike other marine mammals, otters have thick fur rather than blubber, making them a target for the fur trade historically. They were nearly hunted to extinction in the 19th and early 20th century, but under protection the population has grown to over 3,000. Sea otters can routinely be seen in the Monterey Bay, where they play an important role in the kelp forest ecosystem as a keystone species.
What would happen if there were no otters to eat urchins (which eat kelp)?
Diet: Wetlands, shoreline Habitat: Fish, amphibians, invertebrates, small mammals Status: Least Concern
These long-legged wading birds can be seen in local wetlands, and are distinguished by their yellow beaks and black feet. Great egrets almost went extinct in the 19th century due to the demand for their feathers, but conservation efforts have helped their populations recover.