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Jennifer Kennedy

Creature Feature: Bearded Seal

By January 31, 2013

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Bearded Seal Image / NOAALast month, NOAA listed two population segments (the Beringia and Okhotsk population segments) of  bearded seal as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Who are these seals?

Bearded seals are a species of ice seal that lives in the cold regions in the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. They are considered "ice seals" because they need ice to survive - for resting, giving birth, molting and shelter.  Bearded seals may forage and hide under ice, popping up in breathing holes when they need air.

During the spring mating season, male bearded seals vocalize underwater, spiraling and blowing bubbles, then surfacing in the middle of the circle. Each male has its own distinctive voice. These sounds are thought to show their "fitness" to potential mates.  Mating occurs in the water, and the female gives birth to a single pup after about an 11-month gestation period. The pups stay with their mother for 2-4 weeks, after which they are left on their own. Bearded seals are solitary animals, and often rest alone on ice floes.

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Image: Bearded Seal, courtesy Captain Budd Christman, NOAA Corps / NOAA Photo Library

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