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Ringed Seal

ringed seal
ringed seal
ringed seal pictures

The ringed seal is a mammal and is also known as the jar seal it belongs to the family Phocaea and is an earless seal. This unusual seal is one of the smaller seals of the seal family which got its name due to the distinctive dark spots on its body which are encircled by light grey rings. These seals have a small head and a catlike nose with round flabby bodies. These seals can grow to 5 foot long and weigh as much as 150 pounds. They have small front flippers with claws measuring about 1 inch in thickness which are used to keep their air holes open in the ice which is often as thick as 6 feet. This capability makes them unique from other seals do not have the ability of maintaining breathing holes in the ice. Of all the ice seals the ringed seal is the most populous and can be found in the Arctic and Subarctic regions. It is not only found in the Arctic Ocean ranges into the Bering Sea and the Okhotsk Sea ranging into the Pacific Ocean as well along the coast of Japan, and also been found along the North Atlantic coasts of Greenland and Scandinavia. They have been seen as far South as Newfoundland which includes two freshwater subspecies in northern Europe.

The closest relative to the ringed seal is the gray seal along with the other northern latitude ice seals which would be the Ribbon seal, Hooded seal, Harp seal, and Bearded seal. The primary prey of the ringed seal is the polar bear as well as the people living in the Arctic for a regular food source. However women have been warned not to eat the liver during pregnancy due to the large amount of Mercury that can harm the fetus. They have also fallen prey to killer whales, walruses, and sharks. The pups often fall prey to large Gulls and Arctic Fox. The largest threat to the seal population is climate change due to their dependency on the pack ice. The Ringed seal prefers resting on top of the ice, and they pup on the ice in late winter to early spring. The females reach maturity at about the age of four and have a nine to eleven month gestation period before pups are born. Males on the other hand do not reach their maturity before the age of seven years. The males will stay with the female for a few days to mate, then the male moves on in looks for another female. The mating normally begins in April, being a solitary animal they normally separate themselves on the ice by about hundred yards the females give birth to one pup that they nurse for about two months, and then the pups are left on their own to survive. The ringed seal builds a lair which resembles a snow cave over their breathing holes and is very territorial about their personal lair and the water beneath them. These amazing animals can dive up to 300 feet and remain underwater for up to 45 minutes. When they return to the surface they often blow bubbles through their air hole checking for polar bears prior to submerging from the water. The pups are raised within the seclusion of this layer which protects them from predators and harsh weather until they are weaned at about two months of age. The pups learn to dive shortly after birth, but still fall prey to various animals and birds when they are weaned.

Even though these seals are solitary animals when they are in a group they are referred to as a colony. The ringed seal will live 25 and 30 years and they feed on small fish and invertebrates which include mysids, Arctic Cod, Herring, Shrimp, Smelt, Perch, Whitefish, crustaceans and Sculpin. The ringed seal is not considered an endangered animal under the Endangered Species Act.