Bearded seal

Bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus) is the largest species of seal living in the Arctic. It belongs to family of “true seals” (Phocidae). The animals prefer to relax on sea ice; observing them on land is rather unusual. Pups are born in the spring, usually in May.

They are able to enter the water only a few hours after they are born in order to avoid being eaten by polar bears. Pups consume about 8 litres of very fat milk (50% fat) per day. After a period of only 18-24 days of living with their mothers, they are ready to live on their own. During the breeding season, male bearded seals “sing” to attract females. Their “songs” in calm conditions might be heard up 19 km away.

Bearded seals’ fur might be grey or dark-grey with a light belly, although sometimes they have rust-coloured faces and fore flippers. Searching for food at the bottom of the sea (they usually dive to depths up to 200–300 meters) causes iron-compounds to from soft-bottom substrates, which stick to their hair, and chemically react with oxygen when the animal is out of water.

The main predator of the bearded seal is the polar bear.

Interesting facts

The Alaska population of bearded seals is regularly monitored by NOAA Fisheries.


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