Grey Seal
Overview
 
The grey seal is found on both shores of the North Atlantic Ocean. It is a large seal
Pinniped
Pinnipeds or fin-footed mammals are a widely distributed and diverse group of semiaquatic marine mammals comprising the families Odobenidae , Otariidae , and Phocidae .-Overview: Pinnipeds are typically sleek-bodied and barrel-shaped...

 of the family
Family (biology)
In biological classification, family is* a taxonomic rank. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, genus, and species, with family fitting between order and genus. As for the other well-known ranks, there is the option of an immediately lower rank, indicated by the...

 Phocidae or "true seals". It is the only species classified in the genus
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 Halichoerus. Its name is spelled gray seal in the US; it is also known as Atlantic grey seal and the horsehead seal.
It is a large seal, with the bulls reaching 2.5 – long and weighing 170–310 kg (374.8–683.4 lb); the cows are much smaller, typically 1.6 – long and 100 – in weight.
Encyclopedia
The grey seal is found on both shores of the North Atlantic Ocean. It is a large seal
Pinniped
Pinnipeds or fin-footed mammals are a widely distributed and diverse group of semiaquatic marine mammals comprising the families Odobenidae , Otariidae , and Phocidae .-Overview: Pinnipeds are typically sleek-bodied and barrel-shaped...

 of the family
Family (biology)
In biological classification, family is* a taxonomic rank. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, genus, and species, with family fitting between order and genus. As for the other well-known ranks, there is the option of an immediately lower rank, indicated by the...

 Phocidae or "true seals". It is the only species classified in the genus
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 Halichoerus. Its name is spelled gray seal in the US; it is also known as Atlantic grey seal and the horsehead seal.

Appearance

It is a large seal, with the bulls reaching 2.5 – long and weighing 170–310 kg (374.8–683.4 lb); the cows are much smaller, typically 1.6 – long and 100 – in weight. Individuals from the western Atlantic are often much larger, with males reaching 400 kg (881.8 lb) and females weighing up to 250 kg (551.2 lb). It is distinguished from the common seal by its straight head profile with nostrils that are well apart, and fewer spots on its body. Bull Greys have larger noses and a more convex profile than common seal bulls. Males are generally darker than females, with lighter patches and often scarring around the neck. Females are silver grey to brown with dark patches.

Ecology and distribution

In Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 and Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

, the grey seal breeds in several colonies on and around the coasts. Notably large colonies are at Donna Nook (Lincolnshire), the Farne Islands
Farne Islands
The Farne Islands are a group of islands off the coast of Northumberland, England. There are between 15 and 20 or more islands depending on the state of the tide. They are scattered about 2.5–7.5 km distant from the mainland, divided into two groups, the Inner Group and the Outer Group...

 off the Northumberland Coast
Northumberland Coast
The Northumberland Coast is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty covering 39 miles of coastline from Berwick-Upon-Tweed to the River Coquet estuary in the north-east of England...

 (about 6,000 animals), Orkney and North Rona
North Rona
Rona is a remote Scottish island in the North Atlantic. Rona is often referred to as North Rona in order to distinguish it from South Rona . It has an area of and a maximum height of...

 off the north coast of Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, Lambay Island
Lambay Island
Lambay lies off the coast of Fingal / north County Dublin, Ireland in the Irish Sea. It is located north of Ireland's Eye at and is the easternmost point of the Republic of Ireland...

 off the coast of Dublin and Ramsey Island
Ramsey Island
Ramsey Island is an island about 1 km off the coast of the St David's peninsula in Pembrokeshire on the northern side of St Brides Bay, in southwest Wales....

 off the coast of Pembrokeshire
Pembrokeshire
Pembrokeshire is a county in the south west of Wales. It borders Carmarthenshire to the east and Ceredigion to the north east. The county town is Haverfordwest where Pembrokeshire County Council is headquartered....

. In the German Bight
German Bight
German Bight is the southeastern bight of the North Sea bounded by the Netherlands and Germany to the south, and Denmark and Germany to the east . To the north and west it is limited by the Dogger Bank. The Bight contains the Frisian and Danish Islands. The Wadden Sea is approximately ten to...

, colonies exist off the islands Sylt
Sylt
Sylt is an island in northern Germany, part of Nordfriesland district, Schleswig-Holstein, and well known for the distinctive shape of its shoreline. It belongs to the North Frisian Islands and is the largest island in North Frisia...

 and Amrum
Amrum
Amrum is one of the North Frisian Islands on the German North Sea coast, south of Sylt and west of Föhr. It is part of the Nordfriesland district in the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein...

 and on Heligoland
Heligoland
Heligoland is a small German archipelago in the North Sea.Formerly Danish and British possessions, the islands are located in the Heligoland Bight in the south-eastern corner of the North Sea...

.

In the Western North Atlantic, the grey seal is typically found in large numbers in the coastal waters of Canada and south to about New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

 in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. In Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, it is typically seen in areas such as the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Newfoundland, the Maritimes, and Quebec
Quebec
Quebec or is a province in east-central Canada. It is the only Canadian province with a predominantly French-speaking population and the only one whose sole official language is French at the provincial level....

. The largest colony in the world is at Sable Island
Sable Island
Sable Island is a small Canadian island situated 300 km southeast of mainland Nova Scotia in the Atlantic Ocean. The island is a year-round home to approximately five people...

, NS
Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the most populous province in Atlantic Canada. The name of the province is Latin for "New Scotland," but "Nova Scotia" is the recognized, English-language name of the province. The provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the...

. In the United States it's found year round off the coast of New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

, in particular Maine
Maine
Maine is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and south, New Hampshire to the west, and the Canadian provinces of Quebec to the northwest and New Brunswick to the northeast. Maine is both the northernmost and easternmost...

 and Massachusetts
Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

, and slightly less frequently in the Middle Atlantic States. Its natural range extends south to Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

.

An isolated population exists in the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

, forming the H. grypus balticus subspecies.

During the winter months grey seals can be seen hauled out
Hauling-out
Hauling-out is the behaviour associated with pinnipeds , of temporarily leaving the water between periods of foraging activity for sites on land or ice...

 on the rocks, islands, and shoals not far from shore, and occasionally coming ashore to rest. In the spring the recently weaned pups and yearlings occasionally strand on beaches after becoming "lost."

Diet

The grey seal feeds on a wide variety of fish
Fish
Fish are a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate animals that lack limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish, as well as various extinct related groups...

, mostly benthic or demersal species, taken at depths down to 70 m (230 ft) or more. Sand eel
Sand Eel
Sand eel or sandeel is the common name used for a considerable number of species of fish. Most of them are sea fish of the genera Hyperoplus , Gymnammodytes or Ammodytes...

s (Ammodytes spp) are important in its diet in many localities. Cod
Cod
Cod is the common name for genus Gadus, belonging to the family Gadidae, and is also used in the common name for various other fishes. Cod is a popular food with a mild flavor, low fat content and a dense, flaky white flesh. Cod livers are processed to make cod liver oil, an important source of...

 and other gadids
Gadidae
Gadidae is a family of marine fish, included in the order Gadiformes. It includes the cod, haddock, whiting, and pollock.Most species of gadid are found in temperate waters of the northern hemisphere, although there are some exceptions. They are generally medium sized fish, and are distinguished...

, flatfish
Flatfish
The flatfish are an order of ray-finned fish, also called the Heterosomata, sometimes classified as a suborder of Perciformes. In many species, both eyes lie on one side of the head, one or the other migrating through and around the head during development...

, herring
Herring
Herring is an oily fish of the genus Clupea, found in the shallow, temperate waters of the North Pacific and the North Atlantic oceans, including the Baltic Sea. Three species of Clupea are recognized. The main taxa, the Atlantic herring and the Pacific herring may each be divided into subspecies...

 and skate
Skate
Skates are cartilaginous fish belonging to the family Rajidae in the superorder Batoidea of rays. There are more than 200 described species in 27 genera. There are two subfamilies, Rajinae and Arhynchobatinae ....

s are also important locally. However, it is clear that the grey seal will eat whatever is available, including octopus
Octopus
The octopus is a cephalopod mollusc of the order Octopoda. Octopuses have two eyes and four pairs of arms, and like other cephalopods they are bilaterally symmetric. An octopus has a hard beak, with its mouth at the center point of the arms...

 and lobster
Lobster
Clawed lobsters comprise a family of large marine crustaceans. Highly prized as seafood, lobsters are economically important, and are often one of the most profitable commodities in coastal areas they populate.Though several groups of crustaceans are known as lobsters, the clawed lobsters are most...

s. The average daily food requirement is estimated to be 5 kg (11 lb), though the seal does not feed every day and it fasts during the breeding season.

Reproduction

The pups are born in autumn (September to November) in the eastern Atlantic and in winter (January to February) in the west, with a dense, soft silky white fur; at first they are small and shrivelled-looking, but they rapidly fatten up to look like over-filled barrels, from the extremely fat-rich milk they receive from their mothers. Within a month or so, they shed the pup fur and grow the dense waterproof adult fur, and soon leave for the sea to learn to fish for themselves. In recent years, the number of grey seals has been on the rise in the west and in Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 there have been calls for a seal cull.

Status

In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 grey seal numbers are increasing rapidly. Up until 1962, Maine
Maine
Maine is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and south, New Hampshire to the west, and the Canadian provinces of Quebec to the northwest and New Brunswick to the northeast. Maine is both the northernmost and easternmost...

 and Massachusetts
Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

 had bounties on seals so that only a few isolated colonies of grey seals remained in Maine
Maine
Maine is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and south, New Hampshire to the west, and the Canadian provinces of Quebec to the northwest and New Brunswick to the northeast. Maine is both the northernmost and easternmost...

. Then in 1972 Congress passed the Marine Mammal Protection Act
Marine Mammal Protection Act
The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 was the first article of legislation to call specifically for an ecosystem approach to natural resource management and conservation. MMPA prohibits the taking of marine mammals, and enacts a moratorium on the import, export, and sale of any marine mammal,...

 that prevented harming or harassing seals, and grey seal populations rebounded. For example there is a large breeding colony near Cape Cod
Cape Cod
Cape Cod, often referred to locally as simply the Cape, is a cape in the easternmost portion of the state of Massachusetts, in the Northeastern United States...

, Massachusetts
Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

, where pups rebounded from a handful in 1980 to more than 2,000 in 2008. By 2009, thousands of grey seals there had taken up residence on or near popular swimming beaches when Great White Shark
Great white shark
The great white shark, scientific name Carcharodon carcharias, also known as the great white, white pointer, white shark, or white death, is a large lamniform shark found in coastal surface waters in all major oceans. It is known for its size, with the largest individuals known to have approached...

s started hunting them close to shore. Also grey seals are seen increasingly in New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 and New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

 waters, and it's expected that they will establish colonies further south.

In the UK seals are protected under the Conservation of Seals Act 1970
Conservation of Seals Act 1970
The Conservation of Seals Act 1970 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It received Royal Assent on 29 May 1970.-Criticism:...

, however it does not apply to Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

. In the UK there have also been calls for a cull from some fishermen, claiming that stocks have declined due to the seals.

The population in the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

 has increased about 8% per year between 1990 and the mid-2000s with the numbers becoming stagnant since 2005. As of 2011 hunting grey seals is legal in Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 and Finland
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

 with 50% of the quota being used. Other anthropogenic
Anthropogenic
Human impact on the environment or anthropogenic impact on the environment includes impacts on biophysical environments, biodiversity and other resources. The term anthropogenic designates an effect or object resulting from human activity. The term was first used in the technical sense by Russian...

causes of death include the drowning in fishing gear.

Subspecies

There are two recognized subspecies of this seal:
  • Halichoerus grypus grypus
  • Halichoerus grypus macrorhynchus, synonymously known as H. grypus balticus.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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