Mediterranean Monk Seal

Scientific Name:
Monachus monachus
2.2-2.8 m (7-9 ft)
240-400 kg (530-880 lbs)
fish, rays, and cephalopods

Physical characteristics

Rounded heads with an extended broad "muzzle" and an almost-even "crown". Large wide-spaced eyes, upward opening nostrils, and fairly big whisker pads with long, light-colored, smooth whiskers. Coloration ranges from brownish to grayish, with a pale patch located on the belly. Pale mask on their face and a dark hood on their rounded head.

Behavioral characterization

Somewhat solitary, but can be seen hauled out in large groups.


Mediterranean Sea (Aegean, Black and Ionian Seas, as well as the Sea of Marmara), and the east Atlantic Ocean along the coast of Northwest Africa

Population size



No confirmed predators. Some reports of predation by killer whales and sharks.

Migration/Dispersal patterns


Social system/Group size

Travel in small groups of 2-3 individuals. May be seen hauled out in larger groups.

Major threats

Previously hunted by humans for oil and fur. Sensitive to pollution and coastal development. Placed at risk by interaction with fishing equipment. Highly susceptible to disease due to small population size and inbreeding.

Research efforts

Surveys to determine status and distribution and work with local people to develop alternative fishing techniques.

Fun fact

Mediterranean monk seals are believed to one of the origins of the mermaid myth. They are the most highly endangered pinniped, and one of the most highly endangered marine mammals.