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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 06, 2021

Caspian Seal: 15 Facts You Won't Believe!

Caspian seal facts for kids are educational!

The Caspian seal (Phoca caspica) is the smallest earless seal in existence, and it is the only mammal to occur naturally in the Caspian sea. These seals are at the top of their aquatic food chain in their ecosystem as data would suggest, they were trapped in the Caspian sea which was quickly surrounded by landmasses that are now modern-day Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan.

The Caspian seal belongs to the Phocidae family, which consists of most seal species and their closest relative is the Gray Seal. In comparison to the Gray seal who grows up to 10 ft (3 m) and weighs 880 lb (399.1 kg), Caspian seals are small and only reach a maximum length of 5 ft (1.5 m)with a maximum weight of 220 lb (100 kg) at their heaviest.

Caspian seals travel throughout the Caspian sea for most of the year and cover a total surface area of 143,200 square miles and spend most of their time lazing around on ice sheets, as they use these ice sheets for protection as well as a place to give birth.

The current conservation status of this seal species is listed as Endangered on the  International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, and hopefully, with a more strict conservation effort, their population can get back to its normal number.

For more relatable content, check out these southern elephant seal facts and fur seal facts for kids.

Caspian Seal Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Caspian seal?

Caspian seals are the only marine mammal to exist in the Caspian sea as they make up the only seal population in the entire region. Caspian seals are recorded as the smallest pinnipeds that belong to the true seal family and much like the Baikal seals, are related to the Arctic ring seal.

What class of animal does a Caspian seal belong to?

Caspian seals belong to the mammal class of animals. The presence of mammary glands to feed their young ones, with three ear bones, fur or hair, and the neocortex (region of the brain) is what qualifies the Caspian seals as mammals.

How many Caspian seals are there in the world?

There has been a large-scale Caspian seal population decline in recent years and this seal species has been listed as an endangered seal species on the  International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. At the turn of the 20th century, Caspian seals had a large population in their natural habitats in parts of the Caspian sea and the North Caspian ice sheets.

Once, Caspian seals were estimated to be around at least 1 million individuals in their native range of the region of the Caspian sea, but now their number is estimated at 1,00,000-1,70,000 individuals. This massive decline in the population of Caspian seals occurred due to unchecked hunting and each year their population is decreasing by 3-4%. A Caspian Seal Conservation Action Plan was brought into action in 2007, by all five countries (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, and Iran) in the Caspian region to put an end to unchecked hunting and to better the conservation efforts of the Caspian seals.

Where does a Caspian seal live?

Caspian seals usually occur in the temperate region of the Caspian sea or make islands or ice sheets their habitat range. Since they spend their time on both land and water, they are often found in estuaries, mostly in the mouths of the Ural and Volga rivers. Since Caspian seals are migratory species of seals, they migrate to the northern part of the Caspian sea in late autumn.

What is a Caspian seal's habitat?

Caspian seals are mostly confined to the saltwater of the Caspian sea and most of its feeder rivers, these are often bordered by several states of the Russian commonwealth and Iran. As Caspian seals are a migratory species, they often spend their winter and summer months in a different habitat range. During winter, these animals occupy the cooler regions of the Caspian sea as they make their way to the northern parts and live in the ice caps. In some cases, a small population might even migrate to the south and spend their winter on islands such as Ogurchinsky on the Turkmenistan coastline.

During the spring and summer months, Caspian seals mostly migrate to the southern range of islands and water bodies and make sandbanks or rocky areas on islands as their preferred habitat.

Who do Caspian seals live with?

Caspian seals are usually solitary in nature but during the breeding season (late February-mid March)  these species live in a large population mostly consisting of breeding seals and seal pups. The breeding season sees a larger pup production. These seals also show the behavior of hauling out to islands in dense groups and each individual maintains a personal space that is different from the ice-breeding grounds as these seals rest in close proximity to each other.

How long does a Caspian seal live?

The Caspian seal species have a long lifespan range and most of the population will live up to 25-50 years in the wild. In captivity, the lifespan of these seal species has not been documented enough to put it in a number.

How do they reproduce?

The Caspian seal species are monogamous in nature, meaning one male will mate with only one female and vice versa. There are rarely any fights seen over mates among most breeding seals.

Both the male and the female seals become sexually mature when they are 5-7 years old. After mating takes place successfully, female and male Caspian seals migrate in the late autumn to secluded and shallow frozen waters in the northern regions of the Caspian sea. Females have a gestation period of about 10-11 months, after which female seals give birth to pups on ice sheets in protected areas during late January.

What is their conservation status?

The Caspian seal (Phoca caspica) species is listed as an Endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. This marine mammal has been identified as a vulnerable species due to several reasons like having to compete with commercial fishing for food and diseases. There are also a number of regulations on the number of Caspian seals that can be hunted each year with extra protection on breeding grounds for female seals.

Caspian Seal Fun Facts

What do Caspian seals look like?

Caspian seals are one of the smallest pinnipeds that belong to the true seal family and the male and female seals may be differentiated easily due to the body features and color of their fur coats as males are darker and have dark spots on their body, whereas females are lighter in color with lighter spots on their backs and not on the belly. The spot of the Caspian seal is usually encircled by rings that are light-colored and both males and females have short flippers.

Facts and information on these seal species are amusing!

How cute are they?

These animals are extremely cute to look at! Especially newborn pups as they are playful in nature and like to play around their parents and go off exploring!

How do they communicate?

Unfortunately, there is not much data on the communication aspect of these seals due to which much cannot be stated except for the fact that these animals use visual, tactile, acoustic, and chemically induced methods to communicate with each other. When this seal wants to protect its personal space, it will make aggressive snorts to keep other seals away that are invading.

How big is a Caspian seal?

The Caspian seal, in comparison to other seal species, is one of the smallest. They grow between 140-180 cm. Caspian seal shows sexual dimorphism, because of which males are slightly larger than females.

How fast can a Caspian seal move?

Due to a lack of data, the speed at which the Caspian seal moves in the sea and ocean cannot be stated.

How much does a Caspian seal weigh?

Caspian seals, even with their small body, are large in size and an adult will weigh between 110.2-220.4 lb (50-100 kg). Newborn pups weigh about 11 lb (5 kg) when they are born.

What are the male and female names of the species?

Like most other species of seals, a male Caspian seal is called a bull and a female Caspian seal is called a cow.

What would you call a baby Caspian seal?

A baby Caspian seal is called a pup. After their birth, newborn pups are weaned for 4-5 weeks with the mother's milk. Pups usually do not go into the water until their first molt which occurs with the ice beginning to melt. About a month after the pups are born, more males arrive in the breeding colonies and mating occurs again. After the mothers give birth to new pups, the older pups separate from them and go off on their own.

What do they eat?

Caspian seals are carnivorous in nature but portray more of a piscivorous status of diet as they only eat marine animals and their diet, around 70% comprising food sources in the Caspian sea. When these seals are in the northern part of the Caspian sea, they feed on gobies and other smaller crustaceans. In comparison to this, when these seals are in the southern part of the Caspian sea, which is the deeper part of the Caspian sea, they eat herrings, carp, and smelt. When traveling or resting in estuaries of the Caspian sea, they eat freshwater prey like crab and shrimp.

Are they poisonous?

No, the Caspian seal is not a poisonous animal. This species of seals, like most others, are docile in nature and do not harm humans but will show aggressiveness if they feel threatened.

Would they make a good pet?

No, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List has listed this seal as an Endangered species due to the population decline these seals have faced in the 20th Century and many seal conservation efforts are in place to keep the Caspian seal population stable.

Did you know...

Besides human impact and pollution, Sea eagles and wolves are the natural predators of Caspian seals.

There are two Caspian seal scientific names, Pusa caspica, and Phoca caspica (Synonym).

The origin of the Baikal and Caspian seals are said to date past 60 million years ago as both had ringed-seal ancestors.

Caspian seals, like most other seals, can hold their breath for two hours, which is the longest for any animal in the world.

In the year 2000, a larger number of Caspian seals died because of Canine Distemper Virus (CDV). This disease impacts the respiratory, immune, skin, and central nervous systems, causing death.

Caspian seals reproduce according to the weather and the condition of the sea, as a good ice year will result in better pup production in the breeding season as they travel across the sea for better breeding grounds.

A Caspian seal pup is one of the cutest being in existence! The white fur and big black eyes will leave you speechless at the sheer beauty of the pup!

How does the Caspian seal defend itself?

Caspian seals, much like other seals, use aggression as a mode of defense mechanism. When a Caspian seal is grabbed by a predator it will bite the predators as Caspian seal teeth are sharp and can tear through flesh easily. Caspian seals also thrash around and try to break free from predators.

Do Caspian seals eat penguins?

No, a Caspian seal has not yet been seen eating a penguin as the diet of these seals does not consist of seals. However, other seals like the fur seals, and leopard seals do eat penguins.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these puma facts and elephant seal facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Caspian seal coloring pages.

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