Pinnipeds commonly referred to as seals are a diverse group of fin-footed semiaquatic marine animals found all over the world. Members of the order Carnivora there are 33 extant species of pinnipeds of which the closest living relatives are bears, and musteloids.
Seals according to the species will range in size. From the Baikal seal having a length of just over three feet and a weight of about 99 pounds to the southern elephant seal with a total length of over 16 feet and weighing in at over 7,000 pounds.
Although widespread, most species will prefer the habitat of the cold waters found in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Seals known for their amphibious lifestyle will spend most of their time in the water and will occasionally go ashore when molting (shedding of their skin which takes place once a year), mating, give birth to their pups or to escape from aquatic predators such as killer whales and sharks.
They will migrate over vast distances when extreme changes in habitat occur such as changes in ice cover or during the warm phase of the El Niňo Southern Oscillation which occurs in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific.
Facts about Seals
- The terminology for seals includes male seals referred to as bulls, females being referred to as cows and their offspring called pups.
- Although molecular evidence supports pinnipeds as of a monophyletic lineage, many researchers still believe that seals may have descended from two ancestral lines.
- Seals are slower swimmers than dolphins yet their streamlined bodies and two pairs of flippers (fore and hind-flippers) make them more flexible and agile. Some species such as the coastal eared California sea lion native to western North America can bend its neck as far backwards to touch its hind-flippers when making dorsal turns.
- Seals will feed mainly on fish and marine invertebrates. However some species including the second largest species of seal found in the Antarctic, the leopard seal will often feed on large vertebrates such as penguins and other seals.
- Though the degree of polygyny will vary among species; bulls will generally mate with more than one female. Unlike males of water-breeding species, bulls of land-breeding species will mate with a larger number of females. Females will typically give birth to pups during the spring and summer months and are almost solely responsible for raising them. Quickly developing from their mother’s fat-rich milk, pups within hours after birth can swim and dive. Some species of cows (females) will fast and nurse their offspring for a short time, while other species will take foraging trips at sea in-between nursing.
- Seals can produce a number of vocalizations above and under water and include barks, clicks, chirps, creaks, grunts, growls, and whistles. Due to the lack of terrestrial predators such as the polar beat Antarctic seals tend to be more vocal on land than Arctic seals especially during the mating season. Of all the species, the Weddell seal has the most complex vocal range and rhythmic patterns which includes chirps, chugs, knocks and trills which seem to contain prefixes and suffixes.
- Historically, indigenous people of the Arctic have hunted seals for their skin, meat and blubber by hitting them on the head during haul-out. Seal hunters later used harpoons and nets to hunt seals from boats out at sea and hooks for killing pups on the ice. The use of guns for hunting seals in modern era has resulted in a significant increase of the number of seals killed and the near extinction of some species.
- One of the more common extant species of the seal found on both shores of the North Atlantic Ocean is the Gray seal also known as the Atlantic seal and the horsehead seal.
- Seals will close their nostrils, and throat cartilages and exhale to empty half of the air in their lungs before diving. Uniquely reinforced with cartilaginous rings, smooth muscle and alveoli, a seal can deflate its lungs when performing deeper dives. Unlike other terrestrial mammals, seals can reinflate their lungs after a complete respiratory collapse.
- Because they spend most of their time at sea seals will sleep in the water. Research shows that seals sleep for minutes at a time while gradually drifting downward belly-up. And much like other aquatic mammals known to sleep in water, seals sleep with their brains half-awake to detect and escape from predators. However when on land a seal will go into a full sleep mode.
The Toledo Zoo Webcam
Located on Broadway Street, in Toledo, Ohio in the United States, the Toledo Zoo is recognized as one of the world’s most complete zoos and one of the most sought travel destinations in the United States.
Hosting nearly one million visitors annually the Toledo Zoo features a wide range of fun activities, including several animal webcam exhibits. The zoo which is home to both a Grey and a Harbor seal allows online viewers to watch a live video as shown in the links posted below.
View The Toledo Zoo Webcam.
View Seal Webcam.
Harbor Seal Webcam
EarthCam Networks in a joint effort with the Western Alliance for Nature conservation founded to protect threatened habitats offers online viewers a breathtaking opportunity to view a colony of California Harbor Seals give birth to their pups. Viewers by way of this live webcam can watch as these seals raise their offspring while teaching them how to dive and swim.
View Harbor Seal Webcam.
Live Animals TV Seal Webcam
The Live Animals TV Seal Webcam is a joint effort between the Friends of the Elephant Seal and the California State Parks. The webcam which is located on the Pacific Coast of California in-between San Simeon and the Piedras Blancas Light Station shows a pod of elephant seals who have come ashore to grow new hair and skin (molt) as well as females who have returned from their two month foraging trip after giving birth to their cubs.
This live video is made available by way of Ustream Networks and can be viewed by visiting the link posted below.