October 18, 2021
The bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus) is the largest species of seal in the Arctic Ocean. It is the only species of its genus and is divided into two subspecies, the Atlantic subspecies Erignathus barbatus barbatus and Erignathus barbatus Nautica found in the area between western Canada and Siberia. The name of the genus Erignathus derives from the Greek words different and gnathos, which refer to the heavy jaw of the species. The species name barbatus means beard and refers to the abundant mustache characteristic of the bearded seal. Size and appearance The bearded seal is 2.1 to 2.4 meters long and weighs 200 to 250 kg, up to 360 kg. Males and females are approximately the same size. Specimens in the Ohotan Sea area are smaller than average, measuring up to 200 cm in length and weighing only 190 kilograms. The body fat content of the bearded seal is 30-40%. The coloring of bearded seals varies from silver gray to dark brown. The chicks in particular sometimes have a few pale spots on their backs. The head is small in relation to the rest of the body, and the mustache is long. The jaws are long, but the teeth are atrophied and may be completely absent from old individuals. Bearded seals, unlike other seals, have four nipples. Distribution and habitat The bearded seal lives mainly in the Arctic Ocean, but is also found in the Ohotan Sea, the Bering Sea and the northern Atlantic and Pacific, and occasionally in Germany, Britain and Spain, among others. Bearded seals have also been found in Petsamo, one of Finland's surrendered areas. The bearded seal lives in relatively shallow waters. Individuals of the species usually rest on ice floes, but sometimes also on beaches. Reproduction and life cycle During the mating season, the bearded seals marry the females by making a singing sound underwater. Bearded seals give birth in the spring, in northern Canada in May, further south in Alaska as early as mid-March. The gestation period is nine months, and the chicks are usually born on small ice floes. The pups are born an average of 1.3 meters tall and weigh 34 kilograms. They are able to dive almost immediately after birth and are able to stay at a depth of 75 meters for five minutes when they are less than a week old. The mother takes care of her pup for 18-24 days, and the pup's weight increases rapidly. Females reach sexual maturity at 3 to 8 years of age and males at 5 to 7 years of age. The female usually gives birth for the first time between the ages of 6.5 and 7.2. Bearded seals usually live for about 25 years, but the longest-lived individual died at 31 years of age. Females are longer-lived than males.