Down Under

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Erik van den Ham on February 28, 2010

Down Under

The Common Seal (Phoca vitulina), also known as the Harbor (or Harbour) Seal, is a true seal found along temperate and Arctic marine coastlines of the Northern hemisphere. They are found in coastal waters of the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as well as those of the Baltic and North Seas, making them the most wide-ranging of the pinnipeds (walruses, eared seals, and true seals).

Common seals are brown, tan, or gray, with distinctive V-shaped nostrils. An adult can attain a length of 1.85 meters (6.1 ft) and a mass of 132 kilograms (290 lb). Females outlive males (30–35 years versus 20–25 years). Common seals stick to familiar resting spots, generally rocky areas where land predators can't reach them, near a steady supply of fish to eat. Males fight over mates underwater. Females mate with the strongest males, then bear single pups, which they care for alone. Pups are able to swim and dive within hours of birth, and they grow quickly on their mothers' milk. A fatty tissue called blubber keeps them warm.

Their global population is 400,000 to 500,000, and subspecies in certain habitats are threatened. Seal hunting, once a common practice, is now mostly illegal.


With each individual possessing a unique pattern of fine, dark spots (or light spots on a dark background in some variants), they vary in colour from brownish black to tan or grey; underparts are generally lighter. The body and flippers are short, with a proportionately large, rounded head. The nostrils appear distinctively V-shaped; as with other true seals, there is no ear flap, or pinna. A relatively large (for a seal) ear canal may be visible behind the eye. Including the head and flippers, they may reach an adult length of 1.85 meters (6.1 ft) and a weight of 55 to 168 kg (120 to 370 lb). Females are generally smaller than males.


With an estimated 400,000 to 500,000 individuals, the population is not threatened as a whole; most subspecies are secure in numbers with the Greenland, Hokkaidō and Baltic Sea populations being exceptions. Local populations have been reduced or eliminated through outbreaks of disease and conflict with humans, both unintentionally and intentionally. While it is legal to kill seals which are perceived to threaten fisheries in the United Kingdom, Norway and Canada, commercial hunting is illegal; the seals are also taken in subsistence hunting and accidentally as bycatch in fishing nets. In the United States stricter protection applies, and it is illegal to kill any seals or any marine mammals, as they fall under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. On the East Coast of the United States their numbers seem to be increasing quite steadily as they are reclaiming parts of their range, and have been seen as far south as Florida.

Female Common Seals have a life span of 30–35 years while male lifespans are usually 20-25. Scientists have suggested that this is due to stresses male seals are subjected to during breeding seasons.

Ria Maat on March 2, 2010

Echt een schitterende foto Erik! Dat koppie van die linkse is zo schattig terwijl de andere heerlijk aan het spetteren is! Prachtig!

Interessante info!

Groeten van Ria

Erik van den Ham on March 2, 2010

Het blijven ook zulke vertederende beestjes Ria met die aandoenlijke ogen maken ze zelfs de grootste bruut nog weekhartig.

Met een beetje fantasie zie je die linkse denken spetter me niet nat.

Fijne avond, Erik

Laura Fokkema on March 3, 2010

Ik vind deze foto echt geweldig! Deze gaat rechtstreeks naar mijn favorieten! Groetjes, Laura

Erik van den Ham on March 4, 2010

Het zijn net van die enorme knuffeldieren Laura. Je had hier bij moeten zijn dit is echt super om ze zo aan te treffen.

Groetjes, Erik

Laura Fokkema on March 4, 2010

Zou ze inderdaad graag eens van dichtbij bekijken Erik. Pieterburen is leuk, maar zo is vele malen leuker. Groetjes, Laura

annanz on March 4, 2010

Lovely capture..funny to watch.

Erik van den Ham on March 8, 2010

Hi Anna they really do look lovely don't they.

Greetings, Erik

Isaie D on March 8, 2010

Knap Erik. Op het juiste moment.

Groetjes, Dani

Greg Myshrall on March 26, 2010

Sadly they are hunted commercially in Canada. Luckily, we have nowhere to sell them now as the EU banned their import. Yeah!

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on February 28, 2010
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by Erik van den Ham