Information On Seals

 

Seal Information
planet seal

Seals are found in all of the world's oceans. They are most abundant in the coldest regions.

Harp seals (right) give birth to their young on pack ice so that their main predator, the killer whale, cannot reach them.

Few people have ventured to the Arctic pack ice to see the harp seal pups. Its huge eyes coupled with the idea of a sealer clubbing the helpless pup to death, has become one of the most important weapons the conservationist has in his arsenal.

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There are thirty-three species in three families of seals. Pinnipedia is the scientific name for the whole order. This is derived from the Latin meaning wing-footed.

The Phocidae are the earless seals, of which there are eighteen different species. The Phocidae actually have ears. The shape of their heads gives the appearance of no ears.

The second family in the order is the Odobenidae. This family has one species, the walrus. It shares some features with the third group, the Otariidae, which are the sea lions and fur seals. There are fourteen species in this family, all showing external ear flaps.

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All seals are adapted to life in the water. Unlike the dolphins and whales, they do not spend their entire lives in the water. They must emerge onto land or ice to give birth. Many species come ashore to spend long periods resting.

Their body shape, torpedo-like, makes it easy for them to move through the water. A layer of blubber (fat) aides in covering the structure of the body so that the body shape is smooth and flows easily through the water. Seals are very buoyant in the water.

The limbs (flippers) of the seals are short and used for propulsion through the water.

Mammal's body temperature is 98.6 degrees, and if immersed in the waters of the Arctic and Antarctic oceans for a short period of time would cause serious problems. Seals have several adaptions to help them maintain a normal body temperature. The thick layer of blubber covering their body helps to retain their body temperature. The head and flippers have other adaptions to conserve heat. Blood flowing to these areas can be reduced, therefore keeping heat within the body. Blood flow can also be reduced to other parts of the body surface when necessary, such as diving to great depths where the water is much colder. The layer of fur also acts as insulation. The compact body shape aides in heat conservation too.

Seals living in warm climates have a much thinner layer of blubber and must take regular dips in the water to help them cool off.

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Molting occurs in seals and sea lions on a regular basis. Since this speeds up the rate of heat loss they spend time out of the water until the coat is replaced.

Since seals are hunters, their senses are excellent. Their eyesight is particularly well developed since they spend much time in the water. On land it is equally important due to the danger from other seals.

Hearing is well developed too. This helps them both on land and in the water. Their whiskers are highly sensitive, helping them find food in the dark waters and as a form of communication while on land.

The Future of the Seals

Fur seal populations in New Zealand are still in the process of recovering from hunting in previous centuries by maori , and European sealers last century. In the past 20 years their numbers have increased.

Predators include killer whales, sharks and people.


 


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