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Common Name: Harbor Seal

Scientific name: Phoca vitulina


Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Pinnipedia

Genus: Phoca

Species: P. vitulina


Harbor Seals, also known as Common Seals, have no ear flap, called ‘pinna’, like other ‘true seals’ and are ‘least concern’ on the ICUN. Their name can also be spelled ‘Harbour Seal’. Harbor Seals are known for their V-shaped nostrils.


They have fur that ranges from light grey to dark brown with rings of a different color. Their pelt is waterproof and, when dry, they are fluffy. Their specially adapted flippers help them easily maneuver through the water. Harbor Seal underbellies are lighter than their back and they have a round head and muzzle.


They can grow to be 6ft long and weigh 120-370 pounds. Males usually grow larger than females. For a seal, the Harbor Seal’s flippers are quite small. Baby seals have white, fluffy coats and weigh about 30 pounds. The pups can swim almost immediately after they are born. Harbor Seals vaguely resemble dogs. Their diets include mainly fish like menhaden, anchovy, sculpin, hake, trout, flounder, sea bass, herring, cod, whiting, and flatfish, but they also eat shrimps, squid, octopus, and crustaceans. Harbor Seals also eat the occasional seabird.


They swim the waters of the northern Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, resting in bays or rocky coasts. Popular places for Harbor Seals are along the California and New England coasts. Really, they can be found in any coastal region north of Baja, California, and south of Alaska. An estimated 330,000 Harbor Seals live in the wild, zoos, and aquariums.


They spend half of their time in the water and they sometimes sleep there. Harbor Seals are shy and will sometimes abandon their pups if spooked. In places with lots of fish and few threats, over 500 Harbor Seals can gather in one place. They can dive to depths of 1,500 feet underwater for up to 30 minutes.


Author: Kennedy J

Published: 05/2009


Sources: Wikipedia (search: Harbor Seals)


Photo Credit: frank wouters from antwerpen, Belgium






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