Ringed Seal Definition | Characteristics & Facts

Ringed seal

Ringed Seal

Ringed Seal Definition

The Ringed seal (Pagophilus groenlandicus) is a species of true seal native to the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans. It is also known as the saddleback seal due to the distinct harp-shaped markings on the back of adult seals, which resemble a harp or a saddle. Here is a comprehensive definition of the Ringed seal

Ringed seal General Characteristics & Facts


Ringed seals are known for their striking coat patterns. Adult seals have a dark, harp-shaped or saddle-shaped marking on their backs, which gives them their name. The rest of their bodies are covered in silver-gray or light bluish-gray fur. Pups are born with a pristine white coat, earning them the name "whitecoats," which later molts into a silvery-gray coat known as "bluebacks."


Adult male harp seals are larger than females. Males can grow to lengths of about 6 to 7 feet (1.8 to 2.1 meters) and weigh around 350 to 400 pounds (160 to 180 kilograms). Females are slightly smaller, with lengths of 5 to 6 feet (1.5 to 1.8 meters) and weights of approximately 220 to 290 pounds (100 to 130 kilograms).


Ringed seals are found in the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans. They have a wide distribution and can be spotted in various regions, including Greenland, Canada, and parts of northern Europe and Russia.


Ringed seals are arnivorous and primarily feed on fish, including species like capelin, herring, and cod. They also eat crustaceans, such as shrimp and krill, and occasionally prey on cephalopods, like squid.

Breeding and Reproduction

Ringed seals have unique reproductive behavior. Pregnant females travel long distances to reach their breeding grounds, typically on floating ice floes. They give birth to a single pup per breeding season, and the mother nurses and cares for the pup until it gains enough strength to swim and hunt on its own.


Ringed seals are highly migratory and travel long distances between their breeding and feeding grounds. They are known to cover impressive distances in search of food, sometimes hundreds of miles.


In the wild, harp seals can live up to 30 years, although the average lifespan is typically around 20 years.


Ringed seals have been historically hunted for their pelts, meat, and blubber. While the commercial seal hunt has significantly declined in recent years, it remains a subject of controversy and concern for animal welfare organizations. The species is currently listed as a species of "Least Concern" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to its relatively stable population size.

Social Behavior

Ringed seals are generally social animals and can be found in groups called "aggregations" or "herds." These groups may consist of several individuals, especially during the breeding season.

Underwater Abilities

Ringed seals are adept swimmers and divers. They have streamlined bodies and strong flippers that enable them to move gracefully through the water and dive to significant depths in search of prey.

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Physical Characteristics Harp seal

  1. Coat Coloration: Ringed seals exhibit a striking coloration pattern. Adult harp seals have a silver-gray or light bluish-gray coat covering most of their bodies. The most prominent feature is the dark, harp-shaped or saddle-shaped marking on their back, which gives them their name. This pattern is typically dark black or dark brown and is bordered by lighter fur on both sides, resembling a harp or saddle.
  2. Seasonal Molting: The coat of harp seals undergoes seasonal changes. Pups are born with a pure white coat, earning them the nickname "whitecoats." After a few weeks, the whitecoat pups molt their white fur and develop a silvery-gray coat, known as "bluebacks," which is the typical coloration of adult harp seals.
  3. Body Shape: Ringed seals have a streamlined body shape, which makes them agile swimmers. Their bodies taper toward their hind flippers, helping them move effortlessly through the water.
  4. Flippers: Ringed seals have strong and elongated flippers, which they use for swimming and maneuvering in the water. These flippers are essential for hunting and navigating their Arctic marine environment.
  5. Whiskers: Like other seals, Ringed seals have sensitive whiskers called vibrissae around their snouts. These vibrissae help them detect vibrations in the water and aid in finding food.
  6. No External Ear Flaps: Ringed seals, like other true seals, lack external ear flaps. Instead, they have small openings on the sides of their heads that lead to their ear canals.
  7. Size: Adult male Ringed seals are generally larger than females. Males can reach lengths of about 6 to 7 feet (1.8 to 2.1 meters) and weigh around 350 to 400 pounds (160 to 180 kilograms). Females are slightly smaller, with lengths of 5 to 6 feet (1.5 to 1.8 meters) and weights of approximately 220 to 290 pounds (100 to 130 kilograms).
  8. Blubber Layer: Like many marine mammals, harp seals have a thick blubber layer under their skin. This blubber provides insulation and helps them stay warm in the frigid Arctic waters.

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Scientific Classification of Ringed Seal

Kingdom: Animalia (Animals)

Phylum: Chordata (Chordates)

Class: Mammalia (Mammals)

Order: Carnivora (Carnivorans)

Family: Phocidae (True seals)

Genus: Pagophilus

Species: Pagophilus groenlandicus

Key Locations of Ringed Seal

  • Greenlan
  • Canada (particularly the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Newfoundland, and Labrador)
  • Arctic regions of Russia
  • Arctic regions of Norway
  • Arctic regions of Iceland
  • Arctic regions of the United States (off the coast of Alaska)
  • Svalbard, Norway

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FAQS Ringed seal

What does Ringed Seal eat?

  • Fish
  • Crustaceans
  • Cephalopods
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