Harp seals (Pagophilus groenlandica) are earless seals native to the waters of the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. Interestingly, their scientific name literally translates to the ice lover from Greenland. These seals are also known as 'saddleback' seals, owing to the black pattern on their back which resembles a saddle to a certain extent.
General Facts about Harp Seals
Harp seals have an average lifespan of around 20 years in the wild. When they are born, they have a white coat, but as they grow, this white fur is replaced by a gray leathery coat. This can be attributed to the fact that the adult seals spend most of the time in water, while the young ones spend most of the time on land. The white color in the young ones is a natural camouflage which helps them avoid predators, namely polar bears and killer sharks. At full-growth, a harp seal measures anywhere between 5.25 to 6.25 ft in length and weighs around 400 lb.
Habitat: Harp seals are found in the cold regions near the north pole. Adult seals spend most of the time in waters of the Atlantic and Arctic, which is relatively warmer than the snow-clad land. The water body is also the hunting ground for these seals. As we mentioned earlier, baby seals prefer to spend most of the time on land, wherein their white fur protects them from severe cold and predators. Though the major population is restricted off the Greenland coast, sightings in Canada, Russia, etc., are not so rare.
Diet: Harp seals are carnivorous mammals which tend to feed on a wide variety of food available in their natural habitat. The long list of sea animals which constitute their diet include crabs, eels, shrimp, squids, plankton, and at times, even jelly fish. As for the young ones, they most often feed on the mother's milk. Once they start venturing into the waters, their dietary habits change to the food source available in the water.
Some more interesting facts ...
- A newly born harp seal, which weighs mere 25 lb, can grow on to become 6 ft long and weigh about 400 lbs.
- Harp seals give birth to their young ones on floating ice.
- The teeth of baby seals grow only when they eat something.
- Their large eyes are armed with large spherical lenses which help them focus over a long distance.
- The whiskers located on their mouth help them detect low-frequency vibrations.
- Their sense of smell is also amazing. The mother identifies its young one by its smell.
- Harp seals are excellent swimmers, who can dive to a depth of 1000 ft with ease.
- They also have an amazing ability of staying underwater for 15 minutes.
Though the species is considered 'Least Concern' by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the alarming rate at which they are hunted for their skin is definitely a matter of concern. If the trend continues, very soon we will see them in the endangered species list. We can't afford to lose yet another beautiful creature on the planet, so the need of the hour is strict implementation of conservation measures to save it.