Facts About Arctic Seals

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Facts About Arctic Seals
Most seals prefer to spend their time in the water. (seals in formation image by Maxim Pometun from Fotolia.com)

Seals that live in the Arctic Ocean are often referred to as arctic seals. Arctic seals come in a variety of different types, including harp, ringed and ribbon. Harp seals are perhaps the most popular variety of arctic seals, known for their big eyes and snowy white coats when they are pups. There are many interesting facts about the arctic seal.

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Appearance

Ringed seals get their moniker because of a design around their necks that look like rings, states the website Seals of the Arctic. Ringed seals are also the smallest seals, at only about 5 feet in length. Harp seal pups are born with fluffy white coats that keep them warm. These coats have caused much trouble for the seal, as they are often hunted for the fur. When the pups become adults, the white coats turn to grey or light yellow with saddle-like markings along the side. Ribbon seals are black with four white, large markings that resemble ribbons. These distinct patterns do not typically develop until the seal has reached adulthood.

The Mother and Her Young

According to National Geographic, pregnant harp seals gather in groups when they are about to give birth. The baby seals, called pups, are born on the ice. The mother can distinguish her pup from hundreds of others by scent alone. Ringed seals give birth in shelters on top of the snow. The pup stays in the den for about six weeks, during which it feeds off of its mother's milk. Often, the mother will create more than one den to which she can retreat in case of danger.

Adaptation

Seals are very agile swimmers, but are quite clumsy on land. Their strong flippers and smooth bodies help them to move easily in the water. Arctic seals also have thick skin and a layer of blubber to protect them against the frigid temperatures of the ocean. While in the water, seals need to come up to for air. If ice forms on the surface, the seals will break the ice with their heads, states the website Seals of the Arctic. Seals spend little time on land and can stay submerged in the water for up to 15 minutes.

Diet

Arctic seals are carnivores and eat what they can while in the ocean. Arctic seals tend to munch on squid, fish and brine, which are shrimp-like creatures. Arctic seals will also eat fish.

Enemies

Arctic foxes and polar bears will hunt arctic seals. In addition, humans can also be enemies of the seal. According to National Geographic, hunters flock to the harp seal's breeding ground in Newfoundland to seek out the fluffy white coats. While there are laws that protect the seal, hundreds of thousands are still killed each year.

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