Seals; Not Just a Snack for Sharks

When you first think of seals, you probably think of a shark's favorite meal, or at least I do considering how many summers I've spent on Cape Cod, where many sharks in recent years spent their summers too! But there are actually so many interesting facts about seals you never would have guessed. Seals are semi aquatic mammals that belong to the Phocidae family. Although there are many types of seals, they are divided into two groups. The two groups are eared seals, and true seals. Eared seals have external ear flaps, while true seals do not. 


True seals usually live in the waters of the Arctic or off the coasts of Antarctica, for they are cold, and fit for their liking. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, some seals make caves in the snow to live in, while others stay in the icy waters and poke holes in the ice to breath out of. Fur seals and sea lions live between North America and Asia in the Northern Pacific off the coasts of South America, Antarctica, southwestern Africa and southern Australia. According to the NOAA, seals can spend up to two years in the wide open ocean until they finally need to return back to their breeding grounds.


Most of the time, seals feed on fish. However, they also eat eel, squid, octopus and lobster. According to Seals World, Leopard seals will eat penguins and smaller seals. The gray seal can eat about 10 pounds of food in one day. Sometimes they skip eating for a few days, and often stop eating all together during mating season. In fact, they will live entirely off of their energy from their stored-up blubber.

Baby Seals

When mating season arrives, males will make a call to catch the attention of a female seal. Males also make a call to other male seals to let them know which females they have called. Males are very territorial when it comes to mating. They will fight for the right to mate, by being very aggressive. They even resort to hitting and biting each other if necessary. The winner of the “fight” gets the chance to mate with up to 50 females in their area. 

Mothers carry their young for a gestation period of around 10 months. Some mother seals will dig nests in the sand when they think it is the right time to have their babies. Most seals have just one baby a year. Others, like harp seals, will have their babies directly on icebergs. Baby seals, also known as pups, will stay on land until their waterproof fur grows in, which sometimes can take up to a month. Females will continue to mate and become pregnant again as soon as her pups are adjusted to their lives and accustomed to their food. Males are not able to mate until they are around 8 years old, because they have to wait until they grow big and strong enough to win a mating fight.

This is a photo of a baby seal on land!

Interesting Facts 

  • The crabeater seal has the largest population of any species of seals in the world. 

  • There are over 33 different species of seals

  • Seals are believed to have evolved from land based, bear or otter-like ancestors.

  • Seals live on average for 25 - 30 years; females usually live longer than males.

  • Seals can sleep underwater


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