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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 06, 2021

Did You Know? 21 Incredible Earless Seal Facts!

Discover captivating earless seal facts about their appearance, habitat, diet, and much more

Seals are marine mammals that are divided into three pinniped families, eared seals (fur seals and sea lions), earless seals (true seals, phocid seals, or hair seals), and the walrus (odobenids). All three pinniped families are related to one another but still have certain distinctions. Earless seals, also known as true seals, are marine mammals that are also known as crawling seals so as to distinguish them from fur seals and sea lions. These seals are members of the family Phocidae. 16 out of 18 species of true seals inhabit oceans of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, with the exception of the tropical monk seal and the Baikal seal. The range of tropical monk seals is restricted to a temperate, polar, and subpolar climate, whereas the Baikal seal is only found in freshwater reserves.

Phocid fossils date back 15 million years in the North Atlantic. It is believed that phocids evolved independently from members of the Otariidae and Odobenidae families, like the river beast, which resided in Europe's freshwater lakes. It is assumed that there is a monophyletic origin (common ancestor) of all pinnipeds and that this common ancestor could be from the extinct genus that is closely related to bears, Enaliarctos. These mammals prey upon fish mainly, as well as squid, octopus, eel, and lobster. These distinct creatures, like monk seals, the elephant seal, and the ringed seal, are valued for their oil. Keep reading to get to know more surprising facts about the earless seal!

If you like reading these fun facts about the earless seal, you'll love our fallow deer facts and Scottish deerhound facts as well!

Earless Seal Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an earless seal?

Earless seals are seals that are members of the Phocidae family. They are carnivorous mammals that feed upon fish, squid, crustaceans, mollusks, shrimp, and zooplankton.

What class of animal does an earless seal belong to?

Earless seals are members of the class Mammalia.

How many earless seals are there in the world?

The population of all species of earless seals has not been evaluated yet. However, we do know that the crabeater seal's population size is the largest of all seal species, with 2-75 million individual seals, as per the IUCN. True seals make up 90% of pinniped species. True seals are also the only ones that can be found in extreme polar areas.

Where does an earless seal live?

Earless seals have three geographical groups, in the Antarctic, in warm water, and in northern habitats. All of these creatures are marine species, except the Baykal seal which inhabits freshwater bodies in Siberia, and the Caspian seal that inhabits the brackish Caspian Sea. The ringed seal and harbor seals are also spotted in freshwater lakes. There are two species of northern seals that inhabit temperate coastal waters, the North Pacific and North Atlantic's harbor seal and the North Atlantic's gray seal. The harp seal (also known as the Greenland seal) can be spotted in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. In the Arctic Pacific, the ribbon seal can be seen. The bearded seal and the small ringed seal are species found in the circumpolar Arctic region. The leopard seal, Ross seal, crabeater seal, and the Weddell seals are all Antarctic seals. The Hawaiian, Caribbean, and Mediterranean species of the monk seal are all warm water inhabiting species. Elephant seals can be seen in the Southern and the Northern Hemispheres whereas hooded seals can be found in the Arctic Atlantic region.

What is an earless seal's habitat?

One of the true seals' smallest species, the Baikal seal has had an evolutionary course to becoming a semi-aquatic animal from a terrestrial one. They resided in freshwater for the majority of their time before they transitioned to oceans. Earless seals inhabit the cool oceans of Antarctica and the Arctic. They also might build caves in snow. Weddell, crabeater, Ross, and leopard seals inhabit Antarctica whereas ringed, harp, spotted, ribbon, bearded, and hooded seals reside in the Arctic.

Who do earless seals live with?

Earless seals prefer to be by themselves, however, some species have been spotted together in groups, called colonies, during the breeding season. Some species are known to travel together during the migration period too. Females and males may travel separately or together to foraging grounds from breeding grounds.

How long does an earless seal live?

These creatures of the family Phocidae can live as long as 30 years. However, the longest age ever recorded was a gray seal that lived for 46 years.

How do they reproduce?

All pinnipeds come out of the water at least once annually to breed. Most earless seals partake in monogamy (one mate), unlike eared seals who mate with as many as 100 females. Most true seals do not form colonies liked eared seals during the breeding season. They may migrate in groups or individually. These creatures breed on the land producing one offspring annually. The mating season varies from species to species and males defend females as a mating tactic. The female, after falling pregnant, forages at sea for a long period so as to build up fat reserves which will help in producing fat-rich thick milk that nourishes her single pup extremely well. She gives birth to just one pup annually.

Pups have a light-colored fluffy coat. They end up building a fat reserve as well, like their mother. As the female's foraging area is very far away from her breeding grounds, the female has no option but to lactate. The extraordinary female earless seal fasts as she produces milk to feed her pup. She consumes nothing, no water, and no food while producing this fat-rich milk. How does she do that? She burns the fat reserves she built up before, so as to keep her own needs well supplied. This lactation period goes on for three to 28 days, varying between species. The female eventually abandons her pup so that it can develop independence.

What is their conservation status?

These phocid species have Endangered, Threatened, as well as Extinct statuses. This is because these seals are preyed upon by orcas (killer whales), sharks, and bears. The Caribbean monk seal is believed to have been extinct since 2008. The elephant seal population was destroyed almost completely due to commercial exploitation of the species, and so was the Caribbean monk seal population.

Earless Seal Fun Facts

What do earless seals look like?

Earless seals do not possess external ear flaps. They are able to hear though, as they have secret hidden ears under their skin. Their hair is short and coarse, sometimes with a thick undercoat. Most earless seal species are spotted, but their coloration and pattern are different for each species. Their babies, known as pups, have a light-colored fluffy coat. The body of pinnipeds is round in the center and streamlined overall with tapered ends. They have a thick fat layer beneath their skin. Their short limbs have webbed and long feet form flippers. True seals (family Phocidae) cannot turn their hind flippers (back limbs) like fur seals and sea lions, who turn their hind flipper to walk on the ground. These interesting creatures move on the ground with the help of their front flippers and with their hind flippers in water!

The earless seal lacks external ear flaps but still has the ability to hear as it has hidden inner ears!

How cute are they?

Earless seals are very cute, especially the pups who look extremely adorable with their innocent puppy-like face.

How do they communicate?

These marine mammals communicate with each other by grunting or slapping the water hard, instead of barking like Otariids.

How big is an earless seal?

Male earless seals can grow as long as 20 ft (6.09 m) whereas female earless seals can only grow up to half the length of males. The length of earless seals ranges between 4.2-12.1 ft (1.2-3.6 m). The smallest earless seal, the ringed seal has an average length of 5 ft (1.5 m) which is the same length as a small southern right whale dolphin!

How fast can an earless seal run?

An earless seal utilizes its front limbs to propel its body in a forward direction, while also stroking its hind limbs side to side. It can even reduce the temperature of its brain by 37.4 F (3 C) when they dive down in the ocean for 15 minutes! They are excellent divers and swimmers. The speed of all species is not yet evaluated, however, we do know that the harbor seal can swim at a speed of 12 mph (19.3 kph).

How much does an earless seal weigh?

The largest of all earless seals is the elephant seal, which is massive in size. Male elephant seals can weigh as much as 8500 lb (3855.5 kg)! Female elephant seals are smaller and weigh about 2000 lb (907.1 kg). The weight of earless seals ranges between 156-8818 lb (70.7-3999.7 kg).

What are their male and female names of the species?

A male earless seal is known as a bull whereas a female earless seal is known as a cow.

What would you call a baby earless seal?

The babies of earless seals are known as pups!

What do they eat?

Earless seals are carnivores. The earless seal diet consists of fish, squid, crustaceans, mollusks, shrimp, and zooplankton. Many pinnipeds are bottom feeders and feed on shellfish and fish. Leopard earless seals eat smaller seals and penguins. Astonishingly, the gray seal can devour 10 lb (4.5 kg) of food in just a day! This allows them to skip eating for several days, especially when it is the mating season. Phocids can go on long foraging journeys far away from their breeding grounds. Earless seals are preyed upon by bears, sharks, and killer whales.

Are they dangerous?

No, these cute mammals are not dangerous! They can be quite playful and friendly. However, some species may not like to get disturbed and may give a non-fatal, yet painful bite.

Would they make a good pet?

No, these mammals will not make amazing pets. Some species may be friendly, but all of them find it very hard to adapt to the environment of humans. The Marine Mammal Protection Act protects them from being kept as pets.

Did you know...

The name of the Mediterranean monk earless seal in French is 'phoque moine de la Méditerrané'.

All the three groups of pinnipeds, Phocids (true seal), Odobenids (walrus), and the Otariids (fur seals and sea lions), are related to coyotes, foxes, skunks, wolves, bears, dogs, and otters!

The northern fur seal is known to make very long migratory journeys!

How are earless seals different from eared seals?

Eared seals are distinguishable from earless seals by the presence of their external ear flaps, as their name suggests. Eared seals possess ear flaps, which are not possessed by earless seals. The rear flippers of earless seals point backward and earless seals have an undulating motion and are referred to as crawling seals so as to differentiate them from the sea lion and the fur seal. Most earless seal species partake in monogamy, unlike sea lions and fur seals who mate with many females.

Are earless seals deaf?

The earless seal does not possess external ear flaps like the sea lion and fur seal do. However, they still have ears hidden under their skin. They are able to hear high frequencies beneath the surface of the water, so they are not deaf.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals from our antelope fun facts and gray wolf facts pages.

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

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