Ringed Seals : Characteristics, habitats, reproduction and more

We invite you to meet the ringed seals or Pusa hispidas in scientific terms, which are mammalian animals characteristic from the Arctic regions.

Ringed Seals: Main Characteristics

Ringed seals are small seals that can be found in a range of colors ranging from silvery gray to brown. Moreover, their abdomens have brilliant tones while their backs are dark with striking rings which are the main reason of their names. The adult specimens measure between 1 and 1.6 meters and weigh between 50 and 100 kilograms.

In the same way as other Nordic seal species, their body mass varies in big proportion depending on the year´s season. These creatures tend to gain weight in autumn, while in late spring and early summer they to lose weight and look thinner. Their mating and skin molting periods have a remarkable influence on that fact.

The males are slightly larger than the females, and during spring their faces look much darker due to an oil secretion from the facial region glands. In other times of the year, the sexes are difficult to distinguish in terms of color.

The ringed seal pups are about 60 cm long and weigh about 4.5 kg when they are born. They have a layer of white skin which they shed when they are about two months old. During the adolescence their bellies have a silver fur, and their backs a dark gray one. They are commonly called silver jugs during this stage and their distinctive rings appear a few years later.

Let´s meet them…

How do Ringed Seals Feed On?

The ringed seals´ diet consists mainly of fish and crustaceans, like the crabs .When they are looking for food they submerge into the water reaching depths between 10 and 45 meters in the case of sexually mature males, and between 100 and 145 in the case of sub-adult males and females with lactating offspring.  Most dives last about four minutes in the case of adult males and minute and a half in the case of the adult females. The deepest immersion recorded lasted about 23 minutes, although it is possible that the seal was resting on the bottom of the sea instead of looking for food.

Ringed Seals Reproductive Method.

The female ringed seals have only one pup in each calving. The fetus goes through a gestation process inside the mother’s womb, for at least ten months, even eleven in some cases. Then the calving is carried out over big pieces of ice. During the time they breastfeed, females increase their body mass four or five times approximately. The offspring are very active swimmers and divers, and spend almost 50% of their time in the water during their growing period. Pups with few weeks of life are able to stay underwater for more than 10 minutes and go down to the bottom of the bay, where they practice their aquatic skills (90 m).

Ringed Seals: Habitat and Distribution

The ringed seal is the most abundant one in the Arctic region and although it is difficult to calculate its population, it is thought that the number of this species exceeds five million specimens. Sea ice is the only habitat of this species, and that is where they mate, molt their skin and rest. They seldom rise to the surface and  create holes in the ice, using the developed claws of their front fins. Then, the thick layer of fat they possess, helps them survive the thermal challenge that represents the Arctic winter. In addition, ringed seals make dens (small caves), during the winter, in the snow that is on the sea ice. Each seal creates several dens, in case that one them is destroyed by its predators. Such structures are almost always made in the snow accumulated around the glaciers fragments that freeze each year in the ice formations in the fjords.

Distribution

Ringed seals are distributed throughout the Arctic. It is the only kind of polar seal that can breathe in the holes of the frozen sea, and this special ability allows them to have an extensive distribution in the Arctic and Sub-Arctic.

Subspecies

These seals have been sub-classified according to their specific location.

Pusa hispida hispida: Native to the Arctic coasts of Europe, Russia, Canada and Alaska, including New Zembla, Svalbard, Greenland and the island of Baffin.ringed seals : Pusa hispida hispida pup

Pusa Hispida ochotensis – located in Kamchatka, the Okhotsk Sea and southbound to 35 ° north latitude along the Pacific coast of Japan.

Pusa Hispida Botnica-inhabits the Baltic Sea, especially in the Bay of Botnia where there is a large population. There are also endangered specimens of this sub-species in the Gulf of Finland, the Gulf of Riga and the Sea of the archipelago.

Pusa hispida saimensis (Saimaa Ringed Seal). -It lives only in Lake Saimaa in Finland and is one of the most threatened species in the world, with a total population of around 250 individuals.

Pusa hispida dogensis (Ladoga Seal)- Ladoga Lake.

Predators

We can point out the polar bears as the main predators of these beautiful mammals. For this reason, they always make sure that their feared predators are not close, before emerging to the surface to rest on  the ice.

Let´s have a look of the only species really endangered.

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