AN elephant seal - named Blob by scientists - swam more than 4,500 miles to sow his wild oats, according to the North-East-based researchers.

Blob's dedication to passing on his genes to future generations saw him leave the South Pacific island of Macquarie for the Falkland Islands.

It may have been a long, tiring journey, even for a male elephant seal, which can weight up to four tonnes.

But it was worth the effort - because a team from Durham University has discovered that he found a harem of females and fathered at least 19 offspring.

The team, from the university's biological sciences department, has been carrying out a long-term study on the long-range movement of genes among elephant seals.

Dr Rus Hoelzel, a reader in molecular ecology, said Blob may have been prompted to make the epic journey in order to seek out breeding partners.

"Blob is certainly a well-travelled chap. His reward would have been a harem of between 20 and 100 females although he may have had to make do with just 30," he said.

"There was a downside though - as Blob would have been involved in several fights with rivals before he could enjoy the favours of his partners."

Dr Hoelzel said Blob's antics would have beneficial effects by bringing fresh material to the South Atlantic breeding pool.

"Males are interested in finding more females - and females are interested in finding resources for their offspring. It might be that it was easier for him to get a harem in the Falklands than it was in the South Pacific.''

The Durham team's research paper on Blob is published in the magazine Science.