No one will argue that the eared seal is one of the most amazing creatures on earth. Large and strong animals belonging to the order of pinnipeds. They lead an underwater lifestyle. At the same time, they arrange a rookery and breed exclusively on land.
Origin of the species and description
Sea lions or eared seals are predatory mammals belonging to the walrus family (OTARIIDAE) subclass pinnipeds. Seals are quite an ancient animal. The seal family arose during the Lower Miocene. The population originates from the shores of the Pacific coast of North Africa. In those days, animals were somewhat larger than their contemporaries. However, animals changed during evolution.
The family of eared seals got its name in 1825 thanks to the famous British zoologist John Edward Gray who studied this species. A huge family of eared seals includes as many as 7 genera and 14 species.
Appearance and features
Eared seals differ from other pinnipeds in having auricles. Eared seals have a vertiform body. Instead of paws, seals have five-fingered limbs with fins, and there are claws on the fingers of the fins. The fingers are equipped with a thin swimming membrane, which allows you to swim quickly in the water. Seals easily push off the water with flippers and quickly cover long distances.
Seals have a developed dental system. On the lower jaw there are 5 molars, 2 incisors and canines. On the upper jaw of the animal there are 5 molars, 3 incisors and 1 canine. In total, seals have 34 sharp teeth in their jaws. Seals are born with milk teeth, after a few months they are replaced by root teeth, thanks to which seals can eat fish, gnaw and grind the bones and shells of crustaceans. The muzzle of the seals is short, the skull of the seal is remotely similar to the skull of a bear. It has a rounded muzzle slightly elongated, the neck is long. Eared seals have two ears on their heads. This is what distinguishes this species from ordinary seals.
Video: Eared seal
Wool. At birth, seals have a fluffy white coat, which later changes to gray-brown. In the hairline of seals there is a rather dense downy underfur. Which allows the seals not to freeze even at abnormally low temperatures. The coat itself in an adult is coarse and dense. The coat color is brownish. There are no color markings or stripes on the coat. The body of eared seals is elongated, muscular and slender with a long neck and a small tail. Although on land the seals look very clumsy and the lying seal is more like a bag, in the water they swim beautifully and gracefully. The speed of a seal while swimming reaches 17 kilometers per hour.
The gait of seals is funny, the animal moves on land, raising its body high, as if clumsily sliding on flippers. In the water, seals paddle with flippers, moving the rear end of the body like a rudder. Seals are quite large animals. An adult male eared seal has a height of one and a half to 3 meters and the weight of an adult individual can reach 1 ton, depending on the species. Females are usually several times smaller than males. The average life expectancy of eared seals is from 24 to 30 years, depending on the genus to which a particular individual belongs and habitat.
Where does the eared seal live?
The habitat of eared seals is very extensive. These are the shores of the Arctic Ocean, the Indian Ocean. Seal rookeries have also been observed in the coastal zone of South America. In large numbers, seals live on the shores of the Atlantic. And also seal rookeries are located on St. Helena, Easter Island in Costa Rica and Hawaii. There are single seals visiting the northern part of New Zealand. The resettlement of the seal population is hindered by natural conditions. Floating ice is insurmountable for eared seals.
Also, for the seals, the foodless space is irresistible. In the modern world, the population of fish has greatly decreased in the oceans. This is due to the fact that the seas and oceans around the world are rapidly polluted and the fish simply die. In addition, there is a massive human catching of fish and often seals do not have food left to feed themselves. Therefore, seals live where they can find food. The seal is a marine animal, the seal hunts in the water. After hunting, eared seals come ashore and arrange rookeries.
What does an eared seal eat?
The diet of eared seals is quite wide. This is a diverse fish of small breeds, squids and crustaceans, mollusks, various plankton. Some species of fur seals can eat a bird. Cases of attacks on penguin cubs are known, but they are quite rare. Atlantic fur seals are one of the most fastidious representatives of this species, they prefer only krill for food. Sometimes, rather from hunger, some breeds of eared seals attack penguins, although this happens very rarely. It is widely known that small stones are found in the stomachs of dead seals, it is not known how and why seals swallow stones.
To hunt, seals swim into the water and grab fish. Catching fish with a seal is not difficult. With the help of their whisker whiskers, seals are able to detect bottom fish. The seal very subtly feels the breath of the fish that hides on the seabed, burrowing into the sand. It’s incredible, but it only takes a few seconds for a seal to find a flounder buried in the sand at the bottom. Such a huge animal needs a lot of food, so the seal spends most of its time looking for food.
Character and Lifestyle Features
Seals lead a quiet life. Most of the time they spend in the water there, eared seals hunt and sometimes even sleep. Seals sleep in the water with their flippers spread out, the seal keeps on the surface of the water thanks to subcutaneous fat. Sometimes a seal can sleep at a depth of several meters from time to time, emerging from time to time, taking a couple of breaths and plunging back. In this case, the animal does not even wake up. Seals are calm and peaceful animals. Due to their huge size, walruses have practically no enemies and competitors, and they have nothing to worry about.
During the breeding and molting season, seals come ashore. Unlike walruses, eared seals avoid ice and make their rookeries on the shores. Seals are active both during the daytime and at night. Eared seals are gregarious polygamous animals. They treat their offspring with care and are able to work together with other seals. Before the breeding season, males divide the territory, and protect it from the penetration of strangers into this territory. Eared seals are almost always calm, and they show aggression only when threatened with attacks on them or their cubs.
In relation to humans, eared seals are relatively safe. Seals do not attack people, even cases are known that seals stole a slave on ships, while not touching or hurting people. However, this huge animal can hurt or crush a person, or an animal nearby. Some species of fur seals and seals are trainable and get along well with people.
Social Structure and Reproduction
As mentioned earlier, eared seals are a gregarious polygamous animal. Usually they live in large herds, arranging rookeries on the shore during the mating season and the molting period. During the breeding season, males come ashore before females, divide the territory and protect it. After the females come to the shore. On the territory, males break up peculiar harems, in which there can be from 3 to 40 females. Eared seals reach sexual maturity at the age of 3 to 7 years, depending on the genus to which the individual belongs.
The birth of seal pups takes place on the shore. Immediately after the birth of the babies, mating takes place. Seals have a very long gestation period, which lasts almost a whole year. During childbirth, the female gives birth to one, sometimes two cubs. Baby seals are born covered from head to toe in pure white, sometimes with slight yellowing and fluffy fur.
The mother feeds the cubs with milk. Lactation lasts up to three months, after which the mother teaches the babies to fish. At birth, baby seals have one set of milk teeth, but over time, the milk teeth fall out and are replaced by sharper molars. Which can eat fish and crabs. Only the female is responsible for rearing the offspring. The father and other members of the pack do not take part in raising the kids. However, while the female is feeding the pups, males guard the territory and do not let other males into their territory.
Natural enemies of eared seals
Since eared seals are quite large animals, they have relatively few enemies, but they still exist.
The natural enemies of eared seals include:
- Orcas and whales. Killer whales are dangerous only for small seals and fur seals. And also for baby seals. Adults of whales and killer whales are usually not afraid.
- Polar bear. Polar bears also pose a danger only to small individuals of this family and rarely attack seals. There are cases of peaceful coexistence of polar bears and seals. Since the polar bear also eats fish, it can drive seals away from their hunting grounds.
- Man. Man is a particular danger to eared seals. It was thanks to man that the eared seal family was on the verge of extinction. Hunting for seals, pollution of water bodies leads to the extinction of these wonderful giants.
Population and species status
Eared seals are listed in the Red Book and have the status «Declining species in most of their habitat». Animals are specially protected and hunting for them is prohibited. Seals play an important role in marine ecosystems. The existence of a species is important for the conservation of biological diversity.
This species is protected in the Koryaksky, Komandorsky, Kronetsnorsky reserves. The destruction of animals is prosecuted by law in the Russian Federation and many countries. There is a large fine for catching and hunting eared seals.
Eared seal protection
Measures to protect this species include:
- Creation of reserves. Now the protection of seals is very important. It is important for people to preserve the species, so every year more and more reserves are created. Territories protected from negative impacts. Seal hunting is prohibited not only in protected areas, but everywhere around the world. After all, there are only a few thousand eared seals left;
- Protection of the cleanliness of water bodies. The ban on the discharge of sewage into the seas and oceans. Installation of treatment facilities at enterprises located near water bodies;
- Prohibition on hunting, on animals. In recent years, the population of this species has been greatly reduced. The seals do not have enough food, the waters are polluted, and human fishing is on a massive scale. These animals need human protection not only of the species, but also of the habitats of animals. Large fines are provided for catching seals and harming the animal.
The eared seal is a real miracle of nature. Huge giants, sea monsters of which there are so few left. Humanity should treat this species as carefully as possible because there are so few eared seals left. We all need to take care of animal habitats. Do not pollute the seas and water bodies in order to preserve nature for raging generations.