Saturday, September 8, 2018

North Atlantic Gray Seal

The gray seal, also known as the horsehead seal and Atlantic seal, is found in the North Atlantic Ocean. There are two subspecies which are genetically different enough that they could possibly be considered as two separate species: (1) the North Atlantic gray seal (Halichoerus grypus atlantica), found in the western Atlantic Ocean; and (2) the Baltic Sea gray seal (H. g. grypus), found in the eastern Atlantic Ocean. 
North Atlantic gray seals off Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. 
A gray seal beneath a bunch of cormorants off Cape Breton. 

The North Atlantic gray seal is found as far south as New Jersey and gets more common as you go north. The greatest numbers are found in Canada in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Newfoundland and the Maritimes (Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick). 
The color contrast is quite striking. 

The North Atlantic gray seal is larger than the Baltic Sea gray seal. Bulls weigh up to 880 lbs. vs. 680 lbs. and females 550 lbs. vs. 420 lbs. Males are generally darker than females, have lighter patches and scarring about the neck. Females are silver gray to brown and have dark patches. Although it looks quite a bit like a harbor seal, it is distinguished by its much greater size, its straight head profile (the gray seal has a much longer snout), nostrils set well apart and fewer spots on the body. 
It looks more like a dog head to me than a horse head. 
Long, elongated snout.
Flat head profile.
We found North Atlantic gray seals in two areas on a recent trip to Canada. The first area was off the coast of Saint Andrews, New Brunswick, in or near the Bay of Fundy, while on a whale watching tour. 
In the Bay of Funding. Note the large and set-apart nostrils. 
Note the flat-headed profile.
All of the gray seals we saw in the Bay of Fundy were in the water - we saw none on land. This was a common sight when seeing the gray seals, heads poking out of the water. 
The second area, where they were much more prevalent, was the bird islands off Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada. 
Mermaid it is not. 
I love this coloration. 
This almost has a manatee-like appearance.

1 comment:

  1. I wouldn't guess that spotted version at the end is the same sub-species as the earlier ones. I think we tend to believe that animals of a species all look alike, but there's probably as much variation as there is in humans.