Harbour seal, Common seal, Harbor seal, Harbor, Harbour, Seal, Common seal
The harbor (or harbour) seal (Phoca vitulina ), also known as the common seal, is a true seal found along temperate and Arctic marine coastlines of the Northern Hemisphere. The most widely distributed species of pinniped (walruses, eared seals, and true seals), they are found in coastal waters of the northern Atlantic, Pacific Oceans, Baltic and North Seas.Show More
Harbor seals are brown, silvery white, tan, or gray, with distinctive V-shaped nostrils. An adult can attain a length of 1.85 m (6.1 ft) and a mass of up to 168 kg (370 lb). Blubber under the seal's skin helps to maintain body temperature. Females outlive males (30–35 years versus 20–25 years). Harbor seals stick to familiar resting spots or haulout sites, generally rocky areas (although ice, sand, and mud may also be used) where they are protected from adverse weather conditions and predation, near a foraging area. Males may fight over mates under water and on land. Females bear a single pup after a nine-month gestation, which they care for alone. Pups can weigh up to 16 kg (35 lb) and are able to swim and dive within hours of birth. They develop quickly on their mothers' fat-rich milk, and are weaned after four to six weeks.
The global population of harbor seals is 350,000–500,000, but the freshwater subspecies Ungava Seal in Northern Quebec is endangered. Once a common practice, sealing is now illegal in many nations within the animal's range.Show Less
Diurnal animals are active during the daytime, with a period of sleeping or other inactivity at night. The timing of activity by an animal depends ...
A carnivore meaning 'meat eater' is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of a...
A piscivore is a carnivorous animal that eats primarily fish. Piscivorous is equivalent to the Greek-derived word ichthyophagous. Fish were the die...
Semiaquatic animals are those that are primarily or partly terrestrial but that spend a large amount of time swimming or otherwise occupied in wate...
Precocial species are those in which the young are relatively mature and mobile from the moment of birth or hatching. Precocial species are normall...
Natatorial animals are those adapted for swimming. Some fish use their pectoral fins as the primary means of locomotion, sometimes termed labriform...
Terrestrial animals are animals that live predominantly or entirely on land (e.g., cats, ants, snails), as compared with aquatic animals, which liv...
Among animals, viviparity is the development of the embryo inside the body of the parent. The term 'viviparity' and its adjective form 'viviparous'...
Congregatory animals tend to gather in large numbers in specific areas as breeding colonies, for feeding, or for resting.
Pursuit predation is a form of predation in which predators actively give chase to their prey, either solitarily or as a group. Pursuit predators r...
Polygyny is a mating system in which one male lives and mates with multiple females but each female only mates with a single male.
NoNot a migrant
Animals that do not make seasonal movements and stay in their native home ranges all year round are called not migrants or residents.
The Harbor seal is relatively small in comparison with the many other seal species. Its color can vary from light gray, white, or yellowish-gray with darker spots, to gray, black, or brown with spots or light rings. Its fur is short and thick, with coarse guard hair and dense, fine underhair. They have a gland in their skin that secretes oil to waterproof their fur. A Harbor seal has a round head and a short snout with a V-shaped nose, which closes when underwater. Its eyes are big, round, and dark, it has ear openings, and long, droopy whiskers used for finding food underwater. Its front and hind flippers are short and webbed, and have five digits, with the first and fifth digits being longer than the middle ones. When its hind flippers are laid flat, they look like fans, and between them, it has a short, flattened tail.
Harbor seals live along Arctic coastlines and are also found in the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Baltic Sea, so are usually well spread out. A small number has also been seen in the North Sea. The Californian coasts are also apparently gaining more harbor seals now. They are also found in New York’s harbor. Harbor seals frequently congregate in harbors, bays, sandy intertidal zones, and estuaries in pursuit of prey fish. They prefer to frequent familiar resting sites. Harbor seals may spend several days at sea and travel up to 50 km in search of feeding grounds, and will also swim more than a hundred miles upstream into fresh water in large rivers in search of migratory fish.
Harbor seals are pinnipeds that are diurnal and usually solitary. They gather in small mixed groups of adult males, females, and pups during the pupping season and at the time of molting, but these groups show no social organization. They are not a migratory species but travel a couple of hundred kilometers from where they live to forage and breed, and sometimes to avoid environmental disturbances. Harbor seals haul out throughout the year, that is, they come out of the sea onto terrestrial grounds on icebergs or land. This provides the benefit of sites for birthing, rest and thermoregulation, and avoiding predators. Harbor seals generally molt 2 to 3 months after pupping, leading to high numbers of them in haul-out locations. The pups usually molt first, then the juveniles, then adult females, and lastly the adult males.
These seals are carnivorous (piscivorous) generalists, eating small to medium-sized fish, including cod, herring, and mackerel, as well as crustaceans, octopus, and squid. Shrimp is especially important for young Harbor seal pups.
Harbor seals are polygynous, one male having exclusive mating rights with many females. The fights between males for access to mate with females take place in the water, lasting sometimes for many hours, the females mating with the winners of these battles. Males that are successful are able to mate with many females. The mating season goes from spring through autumn. A female will give birth to a single pup during spring, after a gestation period of 9-11 months. The newborn seal is covered in fur and is able to swim with its mother and go onto land after her within a few minutes of being born. Sometimes a pup will ride on its mother's back as she dives. After 4-6 weeks pups are weaned and have achieved independence. Males reach reproductive maturity between 3 to 7 years of age and females when they are about 3 to 6 years old.
Humans hunt Harbor seals for their blubber, meat, skin, and fur. They are threatened by being tangled in fishing nets, especially in gillnets. They are sometimes killed by getting trapped in intake pipes in US power plants. Chemical and oil pollutants are further threats to this species.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total Harbor seal population size is 350,000 to 500,000 individuals, which includes estimates for subspecies of the Harbor seal: Eastern Atlantic Harbor seal - 65,000, Western Atlantic Harbor seal - 60,000, Eastern Pacific Harbor seal - 170,000, Kuril seal - less than 10,000, Western Pacific Harbor seals - around 3,000-3,500; Ungava seals - 120-600 individuals. Overall, Harbor seal numbers currently appear to be stable and it is classified as Least Concern (LC).