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Common name: Harp seal

Scientific name: Phoca groenlandic


Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Pinnipedia

Genus: Phoca

Species: Phoca groenlandic


Harp seals get their name from the horseshoe or harp-shaped pattern on the back and sides of the adult males. Females are similar but are lighter in color; they have occasional grey spots that are not defined. Baby harp seals are born yellow from the amniotic fluid but in three days they have a luxurious white coat. That's why their nickname is "white coats".


Male harp seals weigh 290 pounds, females slightly less. Baby seals grow really fast by two weeks they already weigh about 75 pounds. Harp seals grow up to 5.25 feet through 6.25 feet. Baby harp seals use their white fur to blend in with the snow and ice. Adult seals don't have white fur so they use the water around them to blend in.


They are found in waters of the Arctic and the far North Atlantic Ocean. There are three different places harp seals breed. One the Northwest Atlantic population breeds in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, off the coast of Labrador, and Newfoundland. The next one is the East Greenland population that breeds near Jan Mayen Island. The last one is the Barent sea population that breeds in the White Sea. Harp seals do well in their habitat and use their surroundings wisely, blending in was a key thing for them.


They barely spend any time on land because they prefer to swim. The Northwest Atlantic population has four to six and a half million harp seals, East Greenland population has about three hundred thousand seals, and the Barren sea population has one point two million seals. This sounds like a lot but the population is not growing. Many baby harp seals are killed every year skinned by hunters for their beautiful coats.


Also we know every animal has predators that harm and kill them often. Harp seals feed on fish such as herring, cod and capelin, crabs and other crustaceans. Most of harp seals predators like to eat the same foods as them such as the walrus. Lots of harp seals are killed by harp seals especially babies. This makes it competitive for harp seals to get their food.


Harp seals have many predators including humans, sharks, killer-whales, polar bears, and walruses. To prevent from being eaten by these predators harp seals have the ability to move across the ice, swim fast, and attack with their claws. This is mainly for adults but baby harp seals are well harmed by humans because of their white coats Harp seals are amazing animals with interesting facts. Adults have to eat 111 pounds each day.


They are excellent divers and can dive down to 2000 feet and hold their breath for one hour. Also when baby pups (harp seals) eat their teeth grow if they don't eat their teeth stop growing.


Author: Emma W.

Published: 03/2009


Sources: "Harp Seal, Harp Seal." National geographic society. 1996. "Harp Seals". Seal Conservation Society. Spring 1996. "Pagophilus Greenlandic." Marinebio Society. 1998. ANIMALS-encyclopedia

Photo Credit: Matthieu Godbout






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