State Museum of Natural History
Biodiversity Data Centre

Monachus monachus (Hermann, 1779)

  • Phoca monachus Hermann, 1779
Vernacular Name
Mediterranean Monk Seal, Monk seal
Conservation status
IUCN: EN; Be (II); CITES (I); RDBUkr: Зниклі
Value of species
The Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus monachus) is the sole representative of the genus Monachus (Scheel et al. 2014). Differences in skull morphology between Mediterranean Monk Seals from the Atlantic and the western Mediterranean, including differences in the occurrence of dental aberrations, have been suggested based on a limited sample size (van Bree 1979). Examination of mitochondrial DNA has also indicated genetic differences between Atlantic and eastern Mediterranean Monk Seal populations: only one haplotype was found in Monk Seals in Madeira and Cabo Blanco in the Atlantic in contrast to four different haplotypes found in Monk Seals in the eastern Mediterranean (i.e., Libya, Croatia, and Greece; Karamanlidis et al. 2014a). Furthermore, a comparison of 24 nuclear microsatellite loci in eastern Mediterranean and western Sahara (Atlantic) Monk Seals showed that the first group had 14 unique alleles and the second had 18; highly significant differences in allele frequencies between the two subpopulations were found for 14 out of 17 loci (Pastor et al. 2007). All this suggests substantial (genetic) differentiation between subpopulations, but to date no separation of this species has been suggested taxonomically. Mediterranean Monk Seals were once widely and continuously distributed in the Mediterranean and Black Seas, and in the North Atlantic waters from Morocco to Cabo Blanco, including the Canary Islands, Madeira Islands and the Azores (Johnson et al. 2006). A few individuals have been recorded in Senegal, the Gambia and the Cape Verde Islands at the southern end, as well as in Portugal and Atlantic France at the northern end of the species' distribution (Johnson et al. 2006), but the origin of these individuals is unknown. Today the distribution of the Mediterranean Monk Seal is highly fragmented and consists of 3–4 isolated subpopulations. In the Mediterranean Sea, the stronghold of the species is at islands in the Ionian and Aegean Seas (Adamantopoulou et al. 1999), and along the coasts of mainland Greece, Cyprus, and western and southern Turkey (Güçlüsoy et al. 2004; Gücü et al. 2004, 2009; MOm 2007; Nikolaou pers. comm). In the Turkish Black Sea, Mediterranean Monk Seals are believed to be extinct since 1997 (Kiraç and Savas 1996, Kiraç 2011); some individuals still survive in the Sea of Marmara (Inanmaz et al. 2014). In the North Atlantic, two subpopulations exist: one at Cabo Blanco (also known as Cap Blanc) at the border of Mauritania and Western Sahara (Gonzáles and Fernandez de Larrinoa 2012, Martínez-Jauregui et al. 2012), and one at the Archipelago of Madeira (Pires et al. 2008). An unknown number of Monk Seals might still survive at the Mediterranean coasts of eastern Morocco (and perhaps Algeria) (Mo et al. 2011), but without ongoing systematic monitoring and conservation actions the status and fate of this subpopulation is in question.
Book reference
  • Селюніна З.В. Зміни складу теріофауни регіону Чорноморського заповідника в результаті інвазії видів (історія вивчення ссавців та господарського освоєння) // Праці Теріологічної Школи. - 2014. - Т.12. - С.69-80.

Taxonomic branch