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Ribbon Seals















What is taxonomy?

Ribbon seals are hard to study because of the amount of time spend floating on pack ice and in open water, away from land.  Luckily, this also makes it harder for predators to prey on them.  At birth the pups are pure white.  We know that ribbon seals stay close to the pack ice, but after most of the pack ice has melted, the ribbon seals are believed to be in the open sea.

Interesting Facts:

  • Ribbon seals have an internal air sack, over their ribs on the right side of their body.  They are the only seals with this air sack! We do not know what it is used for!!
  • Ribbon seals move on the ice differently than other Arctic seals, they move one fore flipper at a time at a time, while other seals pull with both their front flippers to move forward! For short distances, they can move on the ice as fast as a man can run!!
  • The ribbon seal gets its name from the light colored ribbons that appear on their coat by age 4!
  • Ribbon seals have very large eyes that appear all black!
  • Ribbon seals can be approached closely by humans!
  • The weight of ribbon seal pups nearly triples in their first 3 to 4 weeks!

What should I know about ribbon seals?

Where do ribbon seals live?

Ribbon seals range northward from Bristol Bay in the Bering Sea into the Chukchi, Okhotsk and western Beaufort Seas. 

How many ribbon seals are there?

In the mid-70s, the estimate of the worlds population of ribbon seals was thought to be 240,000, but there is no accurate estimate at this time.

How can I identify a ribbon seal?

Ribbon seals are very distinctive.  Males are dark brown to black with four ribbons of white.  females are lighter with less distinctive stripes.  The stripes are located around the front shoulders, the neck and the rear section.  Young seals are gray and will acquire the distinctive ribbons by the age of four.  Ribbon seals have large eyes and small teeth.

What do ribbon seals eat?

Ribbon seals feed mainly on groundfish and shrimp, along with some crustaceans.

How do ribbon seals have their young?

Ribbon seal pups are born on the ice in the spring.  They are white at birth and become silver gray in 3 to 6 weeks.  They are weaned in about at month and then spend time learning to move on ice and to dive. 

How long do ribbon seals live? How do they die?

The life span of ribbon seals is believed to be up to 25 years.

The main predators of the ribbon seal is the killer whale, sharks and humans.  There seems to be little interaction between commercial fishing and the ribbon seal

Where can I find more information about ribbon seals?

Go back.

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