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Beach Brawl Facts

In elephant seal bouts, tactics are simple.  Slam down teeth first and cause maximum damage quicker than your opponent.  In fights like these, 60% of alpha bulls lose control of their harem every winter.

In elephant seal bouts, tactics are simple. Slam down teeth first and cause maximum damage quicker than your opponent. In fights like these, 60% of alpha bulls lose control of their harem every winter. (View larger version)

Photograph by Paul F. Gill

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  • Male elephant seals only have a small window in their lifetime during which they are big and aggressive enough to successfully challenge the “beach master” and his harem of 50 females. The stakes are high but so are the risks and their vicious and bloody fights are known to lead to death.

  • Elephant seals fight using their 6inch long canines, tearing at each other’s thick blubber and drawing blood. Most males have heavily scarred and calloused skin around the chest portraying a life spent fighting.

  • Polar bears are solitary creatures and males can walk for days across the barren ice to find a suitor. Finding a female may be their only mating opportunity of the year so they will fight intensely any male that may have already staked his claim.

  • Polar bears are the largest carnivores on land: weighing in at 1,300 lbs. and measuring 8 ft. long, they can also bite with 510kg of force and lift 200 lbs. with one arm. No wonder fights often end with gaping wounds and broken jaws and limbs.

  • The walrus’ main weapons are its famous tusks which they use like spears to stab rivals. The tusks are overgrown upper canine teeth that continue to grow throughout their life reaching up to a meter in length and weighing 12 lbs.

  • Nazca boobies do not have an easy childhood: although the mother lays two eggs, she can only raise one chick. Running high on testosterone at a very early age, the young fight it out to decide who will stay, and the loser is evicted from the nest where it faces certain death.

  • Humboldt squid are nicknamed “red devil” by Mexican fisherman for their aggressive nature and are known to gather in huge feeding frenzies where they will attack and eat each other.

  • Humboldt squid have an impressive arsenal of weaponry: a total of 2000 suction cups on their tentacles, each holding 36 hooks will grab the prey and bring it to their shredding beak which is made from one of nature’s hardest organic material.

  • Sarcastic fringeheads are incredibly aggressive, attacking anything that strays into their field of vision. A nosy neighbour that dares move in too close is invited to a mouth wrestling match where the two will square up using their huge gaping jaws.

  • Sand tiger sharks are wired to kill before they even leave their mother’s uterus. The embryos will feed by eating their brothers and sisters until only two are left standing, fully trained for a predator’s life.

  • White-bellied sea eagles engage in remarkable territory contests: two rivals will fly high in the air, lock talons and free-fall whilst spinning together at dizzying speed. It’s a battle of wits, with victory going to who dares hold on the longest, but carcasses of eagles on the jungle floor show this can be a risky game.

  • Komodo dragons’ 60 teeth are very much like that of sharks: they are serrated to tear through flesh and will regrow when lost.

  • Tasmanian devils are mean fighters: they have a massive head with heavy teeth adapted to crushing bone and tearing through skin and deliver, pound for pound, the strongest bite of any living mammal.

  • A colony of vervet monkeys on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts have developed an affinity to alcohol in ways that are strikingly similar to humans: a small percentage are binge drinkers and drink all day long, a large proportion are social drinkers and drink only in the evening and the rest are teetotallers. However, there is one difference with humans: the heaviest drinkers are also the leaders and the most feared individuals!

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