Watching the popular animated movie Penguins of Madagascar, have your kids ever been intrigued by the character Short Fuse, “the expert of explosions”? If so, have you ever wondered what he is? Some of you might have guessed it right. Yes, he is a Harp seal.
One of the cutest faces of the animal kingdom, Harp Seals can leave your kids big-eyed once they get to know them more. Keep reading to know 11 Amazing Harp seal facts for kids that can be fun and also add to their treasury of knowledge.
11 Most Interesting & Fun Facts about Harp Seal for Kids
Harp seals are among the intelligent and adorable members of the pinnipeds. Without keeping you waiting, let’s take a dive into the astonishing world of the Harp seals and befriend them (only if you can).
1. Harp seals love AC turned on!
Inhabitants of the cold waters of the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans, Harp Seals are born into a -20 degree C. The females among them give birth only when the surroundings are packed with ice as the Harp seal pups are nursed on ice alone.
Though the pups initially lack blubber, they absorb sunlight in their body fur to avoid freezing. While the fully grown seals have blubber that keeps them warm as they enjoy swimming in the cold oceans.
2. Harp seals are sleek swimmers
Harp seals prefer to stay in the water and spend less time on land. The cold waters are their feeding grounds and they return to land for breeding. They can dive deep up to 270 miles and can remain underwater for about 15 minutes.
When they are submerged they cannot smell as they close their nostril slits but use their whiskers to sense touch and vibrations caused by the prey.
3. Harp seals love traveling
Harp seals are migratory mammals. Either alone or in group harp seals spend most of their time in the sea, engaged in traveling or hunting for food. They travel around 3000 miles every year. In summer, they move to the North in search of feeding grounds while in September, they head south and return to the breeding ground.
The adult harp seals move to the North of their breeding ground to undergo their annual molt. Harp seals are said to be good navigators.
4. They are social animals
Harp seals are usually found in large colonies but they further divide themselves into small groups according to certain hierarchies. The population of these colonies can go up to several thousand during the breeding season.
But even in large groups, mother Harp seals can identify their pups by smell alone.
5. Harp seals change their appearance
Harp seals adorn different appearances throughout their life. When they are newborns, they have a white fluffy coat which helps them to remain warm on the ice. In their adolescence stage, they have a coat of silver-gray with black spots.
It is only when they reach their adulthood they get their marking that looks like a black harp or a wishbone.
6. Harp seals are vocal
Harp seals are capable of producing 19 types of vocalizations both underwater and on land. On the ice, the harp seal pups produce a yelling sound to call their mothers and they mumble while they play with other pups.
The adults produce growling and warbling sounds to warn the fellow seals about the approaching predators.
7. Female harp seals abandon their pups
Female harp seals give birth during the month of February and March, only when ice pack is available. On giving birth they nurse their pups for almost 12 days with high fat milk and the pups gain up to 25 pounds.
With each passing day, the pups gain 5 pounds, develops thick blubber and on reaching 80 pounds they begin to wean. Once the pups wean, the mother seal leaves them on ice. The helpless pups stay on the ice for 6 weeks without food.
But once they start to swim they feed on different types of fishes and crustaceans.
8. Do Harp seals cry?
Seeing the teary eyed harp seals, have you wondered whether they are over emotional? Well, we might need some clarification about that but there is another reason why they appear teary-eyed. Harp seals depend on their vision, especially while preying.
The big beautiful black eyes of these harp seals need to be constantly lubricated by the tears produced by the lacrimal glands and this protects their eyes from the salty ocean water. But their eyes lack tear ducts to drain the excess tears. And they appear crying to you.
9. They might look cute but are slightly dangerous
Harp seals might look cuddly and cute but like any other wild animal; they are untamed and can be aggressive when they feel threatened. You might be prone to infections as well and it is illegal to feed them.
So it is advised to keep a minimum distance of 150 meters from them. Petting a Harp seal pup can also reduce its chance to be found by its mother as they identify their pups with smell.
10. Harp seals are prone to predators
Even humans like us cause a threat to them. Humans hunt harp seals especially the young pups for their white fur.
11. Harp seals can sleep on water
Harp seals can sleep on land, water, and ice. But in water they prefer to sleep near the surface of the water body in a bottling posture, only revealing their head to breathe while their bodies remain submerged underwater.
During the migration, they find this posture good enough to take a few minute’s naps. Sounds cozy? But only they know the technique.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
They are called Harp seals because of the Harp shaped marking in their skin.
The Harp seal babies are called “whitecoats” for their white fur.
The whitecoats are friendly but the adults turn aggressive when threatened.
The scientific name of the Harp seal is Pagophilus groenlandicus which literally means “ice-lover from Greenland”.
Harp seals feed on different types of fish and invertebrates. They usually prey on small fishes like capelin, Arctic cod, and Polar cod.
Harp seal get their food from the sea in which they spend most of their time.
Harp seals are aquatic mammals found in the cold waters of the Arctic Ocean and North Atlantic. They come to land only to breed and nurse their pups.
The maximum lifespan of a harp seal is nearly 30 years.
Harp seals are born to low temperatures like -20 degrees C and they prefer cold waters.
Harp seals can sleep on land, water, and ice. In water, they sleep on the surface in a bottling position.
A harp seal can weigh from 253- 308 pounds. While males weigh an average of 298 pounds, females weigh approximately 282 pounds.
Exhibiting sexual dimorphism, the male harp seal is slightly bigger than the female. The males reach a length of 1.9 meters and the females reach 1.8 meters.
The mother Harp seal nurses the babies for about 12 days and later abandon them on the ice as they return to the ocean in search of food.
The baby pups are unable to swim in their first 3-4 weeks as they do not have waterproof fur.
They definitely have ears but lack external ear flaps.
Harp seals use their whiskers to detect disturbances underwater which helps them to catch their prey.
Scientifically, harp seals belong to the Phocidae family and come under the suborder of pinnipeds.
The pure black eyes of harp seals are due to the high number of rod cells that help them to see in dark waters.
Aren’t harp seals interesting? Hope you had a great time learning about our friends from the snow lands. Share these 11 Amazing Harp Seal Facts for Kids with your little ones and let them know that they share this beautiful Earth with such amazing creatures.