This Wildlife Wednesday, learn about the adorable ringed seal and why its threatened by climate change and human activity.
Habitat: the Northern Hemisphere’s circumpolar oceans, and some lakes and rivers, but they have been spotted as far south as California and Japan
Ringed seal trivia
- It’s no surprise that the ringed seal feasts on seafood, such as crustaceans. Other favourite snacks are Arctic cod and herring.
- Ringed seals may be small and cute when they’re little, but adults can weigh up to 150 pounds. Even still, ringed seals are actually the smallest seal species.
- Ringed seals get their name from the pattern of ring-like spots on their backs, said to resemble splattered paint.
- Ringed seals have been dubbed the “classic” ice seal in that they depend on ice for survival, and very rarely come into contact with land. They use ice for resting, breeding, and moulting.
- Being mammals, seals need to come up for air. To do this, they carve breathing holes in the ice. They can go for up to 45 minutes without needing to come up for a breath.
- These seals have a wide array of predators, including humans, polar bears, and walruses—and when they’re young, birds and Arctic foxes can also pose threats.
- Except for when they come together to breed, ringed seals are generally solitary animals.
Why they’re threatened
There five subspecies of ringed seals, and on December 21, 2012, four of these subspecies were classified as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
Climate change is the biggest threat to ringed seals. Since they depend on ice for their habitat, melting Arctic ice poses dire dangers. By-catch when fishing is also a threat. Studies have also shown seals’ bodies to contain high levels of persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals such as mercury.