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The Northern Elephant Seal (Mirounga angustirostris) is one of two species of elephant seal (the other is the Southern Elephant Seal). It is a member of the Phocidae ("true seals") family. Elephant seals derive their name from their great size and from the male's large proboscis, which is used in making extraordinarily loud roaring noises, especially during the mating competition.
Since the early 20th century, they have been protected by law in both Mexico and in the United States. Subsequently the U.S. protection was strengthened after passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and numbers have now recovered to over 100,000.
Nevertheless, there is a genetic bottleneck in the existing population, which could make it more susceptible to disease and pollution (Hoelzel et al. 2002; Weber et al. 2000). In California, the population is continuing to grow at around 25 percent per year, and new colonies are being established.