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Marine Animals of Baja California

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. November 16, 2016
Marine Animals of Baja California

Baja California is a state at the northwestern corner of Mexico. It's located in the peninsula of the same name, and it borders with the United States, more specifically with the states of Arizona and California. This Mexican state stands out thanks to its huge variety of marine wildlife at both sides of the peninsula, the Pacific Ocean to the west and south and the Gulf of California to the east.

If you explore Baja California, you'll find all kinds of beautiful, surprising and captivating animals. Do you want to discover them now? Stay with us at AnimalWised and we'll go over the most impressive marine animals of Baja California. Read on!

You may also be interested in: The 10 Most Dangerous Animals in California

Great white shark

The great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) lives near the coast, where the water is shallower. Great white sharks have a huge range of habitats, and they prefer coastal areas where the water stays between 12 and 24 ºC (54 to 75 ºF).

The largest great white sharks in the world actually live in Baja California. They can be 3.35 to 4.90 m (11 to 16 ft) long, and females are longer than males, and much heavier. Great whites migrate for at least three months to an area near Hawaii every year. This place is actually called White Shark Café. The reasons why great white sharks migrate are still unknown.

Their diet consists of fish, different types of seals, dolphins and even sea turtles. Great white sharks are known to be one of the most dangerous and feared shark species, although when they attack it is usually for one of the following reasons:

  • A great white shark may consider you a threat to its hunting area, and can bite you as a warning.
  • A shark may also bite because they have never seen a human being before, and their curiosity will test you.
  • A great white shark might confuse you for one of its usual victims.

The great white shark is one of the most beautiful animals living around the coast of Baja California. Although the total population of this species is unknown, in the wild they are threatened and are considered a vulnerable species.

Marine Animals of Baja California - Great white shark

Gray whale

The gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) is a kind of baleen whale that can be found in the Pacific Ocean between the Alaskan and Baja California waters, and also on the coasts of Northeast Asia.

Weighing 15 to 33 tons and measuring about 13 to 15 meters (43 to 45 ft) in length, the gray whale feeds on small crustaceans called krill that live in the seabed. It is a beautiful and amazing animal to observe due to its large size.

The gray whale's movements are quite slow, and like the great white sharks they usually stay close to the coast, making it possible to enjoy a truly unique spectacle if you're lucky. The best time to spot one is usually between November and May.

Gray whales almost totally disappeared in the nineteenth century, when they were considered to be extinct. Now, the grey whale is protected, but considered a least concern species.

Marine Animals of Baja California - Gray whale

Sea otter

The sea otter (Enhydra lutris) is another species of marine mammal. It belongs to the weasel family, the Mustelidae. Adult males can reach 1.5 meters (4'11'') in length and a weight of 45 kilograms (99 lb). Females are smaller, as they measure between 1 and 1.4 m (3'3'' to 4'7'') and weigh between up to 33 kilograms (73 lb). They are therefore one of the smallest marine mammals in the world.

Sea otters dive deep to catch all sorts of mollusks and crustaceans, including snails and mussels, but also giant octopuses and fish. They are a keystone species, meaning that they have a deep effect in their ecosystem: Thanks to the sea otters, the seafloor is not taken over by sea urchins and kelp can survive. This is very important, as kelp forests provide a sustainable habitat to a wide variety of species. Without sea otters, the marine wildlife of Baja California would be much poorer.

They live in the coastal waters of the North Pacific, both in the Asian and the American coast. Concern for otter conservation began in 1911. However, illegal hunting, being the prey of white sharks and pollution have led to otters becoming threatened: Sadly, nowadays they are an endangered species.

Marine Animals of Baja California - Sea otter

Guadalupe fur seal

The Guadalupe fur seal (Arctocephalus townsendi) is a species of mammal that lives on the island of Guadalupe in the northwest of Mexico. Unlike sea lions, they are characterized by having very thin skin made up of two layers of hair, one thick and the other thin.

Guadalupe fur seals are heavy animals, weighing between 80 and 380 kilograms (175 to 840 lb). Like the gray whale, they are almost threatened. They are protected from sealing activities.

Marine Animals of Baja California - Guadalupe fur seal

Northern elephant seal

The elephant seal is a genus consisting of two species that can be found along across the entire Pacific Ocean. Northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) live on the coasts North America, and they set up their breeding colonies in Baja California.

Northern elephant seals can reach a length of 5 meters (16 ft) and weigh almost 4 tonnes, although females are smaller. They feed on mollusks and all kinds of fish.

They are mainly threatened by the great white shark, but it is human beings who are the northern elephant seals' worst enemy, as they are hunted to trade in their meat, skin and fat. In fact, a century ago they were almost at the point of extinction.

Nowadays, however, they are protected by the government of both Mexico and the United States, and they numbers have grown back; they have "least concern" status, but they are still threatened by weather conditions and lack of genetic variation following that population bottleneck.

Marine Animals of Baja California - Northern elephant seal

Harbor seal

The harbor seal (Phoca vitulina), also called common seal, can be recognized thanks to the dark spots it has throughout their entire body. It is the most widespread type of seal, and its coat can be of different colors from white to brown or tan.

The subspecies that inhabits the coast of California is called Phoca vitulina richardsi. They mostly feed on fish like herrings and anchovies; like sea otters, they're very important to maintain the kelp forests and preserve the marine wildlife diversity of Baja California.

Adult harbor seals can reach 130 kilograms (290 lb) in weight and measure up to 1.85 meters (6'1'') long. Female seals, who are smaller and lighter, have longer lifespans.

Marine Animals of Baja California - Harbor seal

Common bottlenose dolphin

The common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) is the most common and widespread species of the more than thirty that make up the dolphin family, the Delphinidae. In the wild, bottlenose dolphins live in groups of about 12 to 15. However, they can be found in groups of hundreds or in pairs.

Many bottlenose dolphins are used in the entertainment business, and too often they live isolated and exploited. They are so popular in shows as they are extremely intelligent and can be trained. Bottlenose dolphins are highly social, and their interactions are complex; they communicate with squeaks, clicks and whistles, as well as body language.

Some studies have proven that bottlenose dolphins can even recognize themselves, that is, they are self-aware. They can remember other dolphins, as each produces a unique sound. Their cleverness is so well-known, that it may be the reason why these marine mammals are the most popular and characteristic marine animals of Baja California.

Marine Animals of Baja California - Common bottlenose dolphin

If you want to read similar articles to Marine Animals of Baja California, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

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Paulo Goa
Hello Josie, I just wanted to point out something about the grey whale. The photo that appears there are humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), not grey (Eschrichtius robustus). As well about the great white shark, they can grow up to 6 m. Nice article!

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