Seals are mammals. They are a group of predators that live in and around the sea. Rarely do they also inhabit lakes. The ancestors of the seals lived on land and then adapted to the water. Unlike whales, however, seals also come ashore.
Well-known large seals are fur seals and walruses. The gray seal lives in the North Sea and Baltic Sea and is the largest predator in Germany. Elephant seals can grow up to six meters long. This makes them much larger than predators on land. The common seal is one of the smaller seal species. They grow about a meter and a half long.
How do seals live?
Seals must be able to hear and see reasonably well both underwater and on land. The eyes can still see quite a bit, even at depth. Nevertheless, they can only distinguish a few colors there. They don’t hear very well on land, but all the better underwater.
Most seals eat fish, so they are good at diving. Elephant seals can dive for up to two hours and down to 1500 meters – much longer and deeper than most other seals. Leopard seals also eat penguins, while other species eat squid or krill, which are small crustaceans found in the sea.
Most female seals carry a single pup in their wombs once a year. Pregnancy lasts eight months to over a year, depending on the species of seal. After giving birth, they suckle it with their milk. There are rarely twins. But one of them usually dies because it doesn’t get enough milk.
Are seals endangered?
Enemies of seals are sharks and killer whales, and polar bears in the Arctic. In Antarctica, leopard seals eat seals, although they are a seal species themselves. Most seals live to be around 30 years old.
People used to hunt seals, like the Eskimo in the far north or the Aborigines in Australia. They needed meat for food and skins for clothing. They burned the fat in lamps for light and warmth. However, they only ever killed individual animals, so that the species were not endangered.
From the 18th century, however, men sailed the seas in ships and killed entire colonies of seals on land. They just skinned them and left their bodies. It’s a miracle that only one seal species was wiped out.
More and more animal rights activists resisted this killing. Eventually, most countries signed treaties pledging to protect the seals. Since then, you can no longer sell seal skins or seal fat.