Hooded Seal Facts | Pictures

Hooded Seal Common Names: hooded seal

Order: Carnivora
Family: Phocidae
Species: Cystophora cristata

The hooded seal is a large, very distinctive seal Males can grow to be 3 meters long and weigh up to 400 kg Females are slightly smaller, measuring up to 2 m in length, and weighing up to 300kg The hooded seal is so named because the male has an inflatable trunk on its snout The total population of hooded seals is approximately 650 000, while the northwest Atlantic Ocean alone has 400 000.

The inflatable trunk in the male is a large flap that, when not inflated, hangs in front of the head and mouth It extends from the crown of the head to the upper lip When it is inflated, it sits high up on top of the head of the animal, and it can get to be as big as two times that of a football The males also have an inflatable nasal membrane This is a flap, which is double hinged, and cartilaginous, and is located in back of the mouth With this, he can close the normal passage of air to his nose through one nostril and force the exhaled air to the hood to expand the cavity through the opposite nostril It is a red, balloon like sac This inflates when the male is threatened, gets excited, or is mating The function of this is not yet well understood.

The coat pattern for adult hooded seals is similar for males and females The base of their bodies are a bluish grey, and is covered with an irregular black spotted pattern Young seals have light bluish fur with light grey bellies and the characteristic black face.

Hooded seals are monophyletic and are restricted to the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans The seals spend their winters in the Gulf of St. Lawrence Hooded seals are associated with deep water and thick sea ice packs, as they breed on the heavy ice The hooded seal migrates with the heavy ice flow throughout the waters.

The hooded seal feeds mainly on deepwater fish, such as halibut, redfish, cod, wolf fish, capelin, flounder, and herring They also eat octopus, squid, shrimp, and mussels They usually feed between 100 and 600 meters down in the water column where they can stay submerged for over 50 minutes.

Hooded seals breed on older, heavier ice packs Males become mature after 5 to 7 years and females after 3 to 6 years Breeding takes place between April and June Pups are then born in March and April, after a gestation period of 11.7 months 4 months of this is when the fertilized eggs are dormant within the female but do not develop Pups are born one at a time, and are weaned off after 4 days of nursing This is because the milk is so creamy and fattening The pup will double his weight in this time Pups are approximately 1 meter long and weigh about 25 kg These newborn pups are called bluebacks, as their fur is a bluish grey, lacking black spots.

The greatest enemy of the the hooded seal are human beings Hooded seals are hunted commercially for meat, oil and pelts Within the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the hooded seal is protected Their predators include polar bears, Grunland sharks, and killer whales These animals can live to be up to 30 to 35 years old Wise management like that in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is essential for the survival of the species.

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