Why Do Seals Slap? A Deep Dive Into The Causes

Akinwalere Olaleye
Oct 06, 2023 By Akinwalere Olaleye
Originally Published on Oct 11, 2021
Atlantic Grey Seal Pup on Sandy Beach.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.8 Min

Did you ever take a good look at a seal slapping?

Is it a behavior incorporated in them since birth or do they learn it from us, humans? Keep reading this blog to find out.  

Yes, it is true that seals are fascinating creatures and are of a friendly nature. These are wild sea animals who exhibit unique behavior and are incredibly calm and quiet even when humans are around them.

Their company is much loved, especially of those seals who are trained well. One can find most of the species of seals in coastal regions with cold waters.

Many of these seals are found in the Arctic and Antarctic regions.

Yes, as in any other normal case, seals use a variety of slaps to display aggression as they do not take well to being threatened by anything. So, you will do well to take good care before you may try to do anything near this animal.

No wonder these animals have very thick skin! This thick skin helps them against the wrath of the cold temperature of the north pole and south pole. These intelligent beings are very much capable of creating social attachments, living in groups, and protecting their mates and pups through unique behavior.

In this article, we bring to you answers to many fascinating questions surrounding these unique sea creatures. If you wish to know more fun facts, you may also read why do fish jumpand why do frogs croak.

Why do sea lions slap their bellies?

Quite a few of us must have seen a seal at least once either on the TV or in reality and we must have also seen them slapping. Ever wondered why seals slap? What makes these cute animals do that? Quite interestingly, it is an evolutionary behavior that these seals use for self-defense.  

The studies have shown that the slapping of bellies is a good way of communication amongst the seal community. Another study shows that the slapping of bellies is a sort of a sign to alert other males in the community.

A seal slaps the belly to warn the other members around them via a low-frequency sound wave.

One can say seals are one of the most friendly members of kingdom Animalia. But when it comes to protecting their mates and the other members of their community, on sensing danger the seals continue to slap their bellies and alert the other members of their community, and yes, this is for their own good!

Is it their natural instinct?

We humans have done so much research in many fields that we may think we know answers to many questions. But the reality is quite contrasting to what we believe in. There is so much to discover yet about nature, a lot more new things to find.

This goes for all wild animals including seals. Starting from the way communication happens in the wild! It is very fascinating to observe the various ways of communication amongst various species.

This story is the same for seals and sea lions or any other species. There is still a lot to study about their behavior.

Some of the behavior that seals exhibit seems like they have learned from humans since they are quite friendly and interact well with us. But the reality is that this behavior is incorporated in them since birth.

The slapping of bellies is a natural instinct that either the pup seals pick up from their parents or other adult seals. But it is definitely not taken up from us humans! It is a way of communication during the mating season.

Natural selection over a period of time seems to work in many fascinating ways. Seals slapping their bellies and slapping their fellow seals is a way of showing dominance, in turn protecting their mate during breeding to keep the species alive, how fascinating it is!

Do all types of seals do it?

Seals show fascinating behavior including slapping of their bellies. This behavior is another important part of their personality and is something that is common in all types of seals such as sea lions, walruses, earless seals; they use this instinct to show dominance.  

The slapping of bellies is something of a natural instinct that helps seals in protecting their mates from other rogue seals. It is a behavior shown by all types of seals irrespective of their species at any given point in time.

Some seals may appear adorable doing that, while seals like giant walruses may appear a little intimidating mostly because of their large size and canines growing out of their mouths and giving them an intimidating, scary appearance.

Why do seals slap each other?

Seals slapping their bellies and slapping each other is definitely a sight many would want to see at least once! But why do seals slap their bellies? Why do they continue to slap their bellies and others around them? Well, the answer to this commonly asked question is very fascinating. 

Seals are territorial animals just like many other mammals present out there. They have their own way of claiming their territories including the distinct courtship display.

Just like birds and other land mammals, the seal slaps the belly to protect the mates during the mating season. Seals slap their bellies to claim their territories, display their aggression and show their dominance in the community during the mating season. To see seals slapping their bellies is quite a fascinating sight to witness.

Common seal lying on the beach.

What does it mean when seals slap themselves?

The behavior exhibited by seals has a deeper meaning than what it may seem. The reason for this behavior exhibited by these animals is very interesting. It may appear fascinating to us, but it is actually a  way of communication within their territories.  

Slaps on the bellies as a way of visually communicating within their territories. They exhibit flipper aggression and warn other males in the territory via this aggressive behavior.

It is a very pectoral behavior exhibited by these wild beings. Male seals claim dominance during the mating period and shun the possible competing males away. Many researchers spend a great deal of their time observing this unique behavior and keep looking for the possibility of more interesting reasons behind this distinct, human-like behavior.

Do seals like to be petted?

Though seals may look cuddly or squishy to you, it is advisable to maintain a good amount of distance from them. Wild seals are more dangerous and should not be approached just for the sake of petting or touching. 

Seals, even though they are friendly animals, are natural predators with very sharp canines that can inflict severe pain. Predating is a part of their behavior. There must always be a good distance between you and the seal.

The distance should be enough that you are able to cover the seal with your thumb. Trained seals can be petted, but that too under the supervision of an expert.

Do not try to pet them in wild waters and in the absence of seal experts. Instinctively they may attack you in defense. Especially, stay away from seal pups, because some studies show that, in many cases, the mother seals disown the pup seals by sensing human scent on them.

Are seals just water dogs?

Quite evidently, seals have a striking similarity with the man’s best friend, dogs. Many prefer calling them dog mermaids, dog puppies, and even the dogs of the sea! But the question really is, are seals are related to dogs? 

Proper scientific evidence pointing out the common ancestor between dogs and seals has not yet been clearly known, but it is quite clear that the seals and the dogs are related since they are put in the same taxonomic suborder under the order Carnivora in the kingdom Animalia.

Sea lions, seals, and walruses are all considered to be members of pinnipeds and the suborder Caniformia, which translates to doglike creatures.

Other members of caniforms are weasels, pandas, raccoons, and bears. These members do show striking anatomical and behavioral similarities with dogs. Thus it is quite certain that the seals are somewhat related to dogs.

Except for their flippers! They can be considered water dogs.

Are seals aggressive to humans?

The cartoon depiction of seals and walruses is not the same in reality. Seals are large water-dwelling animals showing a unique behavior. If you ever visit their locality and feel like you want to go closer to them, we suggest you think twice. These big-sized friendly-looking mammals can also exhibit repulsive behavior if they feel threatened.  

Dog-like appearance and similar behavior of seals may give us a false idea about their human-friendly nature. But in reality, it is advised to stay feet away from these sea giants!

Human interference may be interpreted as an unfriendly threat by these seals, alerting them about the presence of danger. In turn, these seals may end up biting and harming humans, inflicting pain and the possibility of serious infections through wounds.

Many researchers have been attacked by these sea lions or seals during their research. Thus it is advisable to stay away from them and especially from their pups in their vicinity.

Trained seals can be friendly, so there is not much fear in approaching them. Also, these seals are protected under Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Touching or harassing these animals is absolutely illegal and can get you in serious trouble. The authorities in charge advised the visitors to stay at least 50 yd (45.7 m) away from these sea mammals.

What to do in case you encounter a seal?

The ocean is a place of the grave mystery of the unknown. The dwellers of this wild place have their own stories to tell and their own way of behaving when encountering us land dwellers. Many scuba divers and marine biologists have their own varied explanations about the creatures of the sea.   

Seals are sea animals who are said to have a similar kind of intelligence to that of a dog. Even though they have a large body, sharp pointy canines, we humans do not have much to fear from them.

These animals are rarely aggressive, mostly they exhibit their aggression during the mating season to warn off other males. But they are very intelligent in understanding body language.

They can harm us if they sense us as a threat. So, when we are in their vicinity, we should always make sure to maintain enough distance from them.

Especially from the giant species of seals. The distance should be enough that you can cover their body with a thumb when you observe them with one closed eye.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for why do seals slap then why not take a look at why do male seahorses give birth or sea lion facts?

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Written by Akinwalere Olaleye

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

Akinwalere Olaleye picture

Akinwalere OlaleyeBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

As a highly motivated, detail-oriented, and energetic individual, Olaleye's expertise lies in administrative and management operations. With extensive knowledge as an Editor and Communications Analyst, Olaleye excels in editing, writing, and media relations. Her commitment to upholding professional ethics and driving organizational growth sets her apart. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the University of Benin, Edo State. 

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