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Harp Seal

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The harp seals are normally found in the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans preferring to swim rather than being on land. They can stay submerged underwater for approximately 15 minutes at a time also known as Saddleback seals because of their dark markings along the back and sides contrasting their light yellow or gray bodies. The pups are known for their snowy white coats and are identified by their mothers by smell, for over centuries their snowy white coats have been sought out by hunters of Newfoundland. There is a large conflict about this practice which has enraged environmentalists and animal rights activists, however even with the current regulations the Harp seal is probably the most commercially important seal with hundreds of thousands being killed every year. Both male and female Harp seals return to the White Sea and the Greenland Sea in Newfoundland for breeding purposes every year. The Harp seal also commonly known as the Greenland seal and are also one of the species of seals that are earless. Adult harp seals range from 300 to 400 pounds and are between 5 and 6 feet in length. The mothers abandon their pups after about 12 days. The lifespan of the harp seal is usually about 20 years.

They have a thick coat of blubber which allows them to fast during times when food is scarce. This blubber also provides insulation for its body providing heat. They are very efficient swimmers as blubber streamlines their body allowing them to swim effortlessly. They have very strong flippers the males use these during mating season for fighting off other males the flippers also act as needed heat exchange by pressing the fore-flippers into their bodies, and their hind flippers together they are able to reduce heat loss from their bodies.

The female Harp seal sexually matures and around five years and normally have one pup annually which is usually born in February. The newborn pups is normally 31 inches long and weigh roughly 24 pounds. For the 12 days that the mother nurses she does not eat and will lose approximately 7 pounds per day. Because the fat content of her milk is about 48% the pups will gain little over four have pounds per day weighing about 80 pounds when the mother leaves them. These new pups are unable to swim until they were seven or eight weeks old or until the ice melts which leaves them vulnerable to predators such as polar bears. It is estimated that about 30% of pups die during their first year largely due to the fact that they learn to swim slowly. The harp seal normally feeds on halibut, shrimp, herring, polar cod, and other small fish and crustaceans.

These incredibly beautiful animals have very large black eyes, they have a large spherical lens giving them exceptional vision. The pupil of their eye adapts when needed to the intense glare of the Arctic ice, while the cornea is continuously covered with tears protecting it from salt. They do not have tear ducts and must cry to remove the tears from their eyes. These animals have an intense ability to smell, however, while they are underwater the nostrils close and they are unable smell. Their whiskers respond to low frequency vibrations such as movement allowing them to know when predators are around. The harp seal also known as ice seals are threatened by the global climate change because of their dependency on sea ice for whelping.



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