Seal, a meat-eating mammal found in all oceans of the world, but most abundant in Arctic and Antarctic waters. Some seals swim up rivers, and a few are found only in freshwater lakes. Probably the best-known seal species is the Californian sea lion, which is often trained to perform tricks. It is the species most often found in zoos.Seals are skillful swimmers and divers.
Some species of seals are hunted commercially—more for their blubber (fat) and pelts than for their flesh. The fur of some species is popular for fashionable wearing apparel; the hide of other species is used for leather. Oil rendered from the blubber goes mainly into soap. Seal flesh is eaten by Aleuts and was once a welcome food for seafarers. In some localities the flesh is utilized for fertilizer and animal feed. Eskimos have traditionally depended largely on seal, which they hunt with harpoons, for food, clothing, and hides for tents and boats.
Seals along with the walrus make up the taxonomic group Pinnipedia. Some authorities use the term “seal” in referring to all members of the group. For information on the walrus,
|Facts in brief about seals|
|Names: male, bull; female, cow; young, calf, pup, or whelp; group, herd or pod.|
|Gestation period: About 8 to 12 months, depending on the species.|
|Number of newborn: Usually 1, rarely 2.|
|Length of life: 40 years or more.|
|Where found: Along the coasts of most continents; a few kinds in freshwater lakes and inland seas.|
|Scientific classification: Seals make up a group of animals called the pinnipeds. Traditionally, they have been classified as a suborder of the order Carnivora, which includes such land mammals as bears, cats, and dogs. Some zoologists consider the seals a separate order, Pinnipedia. Fur seals and sea lions belong to the eared seal family, Otariidae. Earless seals make up the family Phocidae. Walruses belong to the walrus family, Odobenida. The northern elephant seal is Mirounga angustirostris, and the southern elephant seal is M. leonina. The harbor seal is Phoca vitulina. The hooded seal is Cystophora cristata, and the crabeater seal is Lobodon carcinophagus.|