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Ringed seals are among the smallest and most prevalent of all seals inhabiting the ice habitat of the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. The scientific name for these animals is Pusa Hhispida or Phoca hispida. These animals have dark-colored coats with light rings appearing on their back and sides, which gives rise to their name. Their plump bodies are a result of the thick layer of fat (blubber) that helps to keep them warm in the freezing temperatures of their environment.
Ringed seals are important sources of food for polar bears and other predators in the Arctic region. These animals survive on a diet of fish (especially cod), crustaceans, shrimp, and herring, while reducing their food intake during the spring molt. Ringed seals are able to live under the ice because they make breathing holes using their foreflipper claws.
The IUCN has given the species the conservation status of Least Concern, but the species is threatened by factors like climate change, fishing, oil and gas exploration, and hunting.
The Arctic ringed seal is among the smallest and most prevalent of all seals belonging to the Phocidae family. The ringed seal scientific name is Pusa hispida or Phoca hispida.
The ringed seal (Pusa Hispida) belongs to the Mammalia class within the animal kingdom. It is from the Phocidae family and Phoca (Pusa) genus.
There are five subspecies of the ringed seal, of which, the Arctic ringed seal (Pusa Hispida) population is the most prevalent. There is no accurate estimate of the exact population of ringed seal in the world, but it is estimated that their population could be at over two million Arctic ringed seals. The Alaska stock of the Arctic ringed seal subspecies stands at a population of 300,000 ringed seals.
Ringed seals are found in the ice-covered waters of the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. Ringed seals live in the sea ice of the Northern Hemisphere and can be found throughout the Arctic Ocean. Their distribution spans into the Bering sea, Okhotsk sea, and as far as Japan's northern coast (Pacific) through to the North Atlantic coast of Scandinavia and Greenland. They can be found as far south as Newfoundland, while northern Europe has two freshwater subspecies.
Different subspecies of ringed seals live in different regions. Arctic ringed seals are found in the Arctic Basin and sea ice adjacent to it, which includes the Bering and Labrador Seas. The Okhotsk ringed seals inhabit the Sea of Okhotsk. Baltic ringed seals are found in the Baltic Sea. Ladoga ringed seals can be found in Lake Ladoga, Russia. The Saimaa subspecies ringed seals inhabit Lake Saimaa, Finland.
In the regions that they inhabit, ringed seals show a preference for ice floes and pack ice. They occupy the sea ice regions through fall, winter, and spring and remain in contact with the sea ice for the majority of the year. They are able to use the sea ice habitat in a way that other seals cannot. They make and maintain breathing holes in the ice using their foreflipper claws. Between late winter and early spring, they also nurse pups in snow-covered lairs on the sea ice.
The ringed seal (Pusa Hispida) is a solo species by nature. These native hunters tend to hunt alone and usually remain by themselves when they haul up onto the sea ice. They typically choose to remain hundreds of yards away from each other when they haul up onto the ice. Ringed seals, however, do come together in groups during the breeding season. At this time, they set up their snow lairs close to each other, getting ready to give birth.
The average lifespan of ringed seals is 25-30 years, that is, if they manage to stay away from predators like the polar bear and other threats to their survival.
The ringed seals' breeding is like that of other mammals. Breeding takes place through the process of mating. Female ringed seals reach sexual maturity by the time they are four years old, while male ringed seals reach sexual maturity by seven years of age. The gestation period of this species is about nine months. Females give birth in snow lairs constructed within thick ice. These lairs are constructed during the spring breeding season and pups are born here.
Female ringed seals give birth to one ringed seal pup usually in March or April. When pups are born, they usually weigh 10 pounds and are two feet long. Pups are weaned from the mother after about five to eight weeks of birth. The soft white hair on pups (lanugo) helps to keep them warm until they develop the blubber needed for insulation. Males don't play an active part in raising or caring for their pups. When they are one-year-old, young seals of this species are about 70% of their full-grown size. Pups learn to dive soon after birth and can hold their breath for up to 10 minutes underwater at just a few weeks of age. Breeding occurs again after the females give birth, with the peak breeding season being late April.
As per the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, the ringed seal population falls in the category of Least Concern. These mammals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Under the Endangered Species Act, however, as announced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in December 2012, they are considered threatened. Several factors threaten the survival of this species. With the sea ice melting as a result of climate change, there is a risk of habitat loss for this species. This also translates into a threat to predators like the polar bear dependent on ringed seals. Many also get entangled in fishing gear or get picked up as by-catch in commercial fishing activities.
Accidental or illegal discharge of oil and toxic substances and the noise resulting from such activities also greatly threatens this species. Many range ringed seals are also killed by native hunters for their subsistence.
Ringed seals have a plump body, small head, and a cat-like snout. They have dark-colored coats with light-colored bellies. Light-colored rings appear on their back and sides, giving them the name of the ringed seal. The spotted and ringed seal can grow to weigh 50 –70 kg (110–150 lb) and be between 100-175 cm (39.5-69 in) in length. Their front flippers have claws that are over 2.5 cm thick. They make use of these strong claws to maintain breathing holes in ice that have thickness of 2 m or more. These are the smallest animals of the seal species. A thick layer of fat called blubber helps to keep them warm in the freezing temperatures of their habitat.
Ringed seals are super cute to look at, whether adults or pups. The blubber that helps to keep them warm gives them an adorable chubby appearance.
Ringed seals have highly developed visual, passive listening, and tactile skills, which help them forage, navigate, and get away from predators. They make use of whines, chirps, grunts, pulsed sounds, and roars relating to reproduction and social behavior. Using sound cues, they find and make breathing holes in ice and even form conceptual maps of regions below the ice.
The ringed seal size can vary anywhere between 100-175 cm (39.5-69 in) in length. Pups of ringed seals are usually two feet long at birth.
On average, ringed seals can swim at a speed of about 10 km per hour, but they can also burst to swim at speeds of 30 km per hour. They can also very quickly occupy any cracks and holes in the ice if they have to make a quick escape from predators.
Ringed seals can weigh between 50–70 kg (110–150 lb). Pups usually weigh 10 pounds at birth and reach 70% of the size of fully grown ringed seals by one year of age.
The species ringed seal in the Arctic Sea is referred to differently based on sex. Like other seals, a male of this species is called a bull, while a female ringed seal is called a cow.
Baby ringed seals are called pups.
The ringed seal diet consists of a variety of fish (especially cod), crustaceans, shrimp, and herring. Ringed seals feed on lesser quantities of fish during their spring molt. They can dive as deep as 35- 150 ft (11-46 m) in search of food.
Ringed seals are friendly animals. However, they do display aggression in the form of biting and thrashing when defending themselves from predators.
No, ringed seals are wild animals suited for freezing temperatures and would not survive as pets in homes.
Ringed seals are referred to as a colony when a group is on land. When a group of ringed seals is found in water, it is called a raft.
Ringed seal pups usually double their weight within the first two months after birth.
During the spring breeding season, the faces of male ringed seals are darker than that of females because of a secretion from their oil glands.
The main predator of ringed seals is the polar bear. Polar bears prey on ringed seals and will catch one ringed seal every five or six days. Besides being prey to polar bears, adult ringed seals are also prey to Greenland Sharks, Orcas, and sometimes, the Walrus. Pups of ringed seals are also prey to Glaucous Gulls and Arctic Foxes. Pups of ringed seals found outside lairs are usually taken by the Glaucous Gulls and Arctic Foxes.
Over time, ringed seals have adapted to be able to dive as deep as 300 ft and can hold their breath for up to 45 minutes under the ice.
You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our ringed seal coloring pages.
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