Did you know seals have a genetic link to dogs? Both species are considered Caniformes (which literally means ‘dog-like’) and come from the same suborder called Carnivorans. That might explain why seals, and especially baby-seals, can seem so cute to humans. Seals are also known to be quite a shy and cautious animal, which makes them pretty difficult to photograph. Luckily, some nature photographers managed to nail the task, so we can enjoy pictures of these wobbly and interesting animals.
Despite the many differences between seal species, they all have feet shaped like fins, which makes them supreme swimmers. Some seals can hold their breath underwater for up to 2 hours and even sleep there. The primary reasons they spend time onshore are to mate, give birth, and take care of their young.
The largest species of seal is the Southern Elephant Seal, which is about 5 meters (16 feet) long and weighs a whopping 3850kg (8488 lbs)! The smallest seal, on the other hand, is the Galapagos fur seal which is 1m long and 45kg (99 lbs) in weight.
The fur and fat of seals have been highly coveted throughout history, so they have always been a target for hunting. The Caribbean Monk Seal was actually driven to extinction in the 1970s due to overhunting. Nowadays, seals are among the most highly protected mammals in most parts of the world, but they still face dangers like entanglement in fishing gear and lack of food.
A seal mom’s milk can contain up to 50% fat, and baby-seals can put up to 2kgs (4.4 lbs) a day! Seal mothers are known to be very affectionate, they memorize the scent and call on their pup when they are born to find them easily in case of separation.
All seals feed on other animals, mostly fish. Some species, however, are out for bigger prey. Leopard seals hunt penguins and even other seals.
Most species of seals live in large colonies. They may come out of the water to sunbathe together in masses of hundreds. They also stick together in raising the young ones, seeking protection for the pups in numbers.