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Spotlight on Spotted Seals: Celebrating International Day of the Seal

March 22, 2023

Leopard print has had its day. It’s time for another spotted fashion trend to shine! So, on this International Day of the Seal, let’s make room for the adorable and always attractive spotted seal print, showcased by the two spotted seals that call Mystic Aquarium home: Siku and Nuna.

Every year on March 22, we celebrate the International Day of the Seal. It’s a day set aside to raise awareness about the importance of these magnificent marine mammals in our world and the need to protect them and their habitats. In this blog post, we’re highlighting the spotted seal, one of four seal species known as the “ice seals.” We will explore their fascinating world, biology, behavior, and conservation status, and what we can do to help preserve them for future generations. And, we’ll help you get to know a little more about Siku and Nuna!

About spotted seals

Spotted seals get their name from the characteristic pattern of their coats, which are usually light colored with dark spots. Spotted seals are a medium-sized seal, with adult males reaching lengths of up to six feet and weighing between 170-270 pounds. Adult females are slightly smaller, typically reaching lengths of up to five feet and weighing between 110-190 pounds. Both males and females have a streamlined body shape, which helps them to move quickly through the water.

Spotted seals are found in the northern Pacific Ocean, specifically in the waters around Alaska, Russia, and Japan. They typically spend most of their time in the water but can also be found on ice floes and rocky shores. During the breeding season, spotted seals gather in large groups on ice floes to mate and give birth. That’s why they’re known as one of the “ice seals,” a group that also includes ringed, ribbon, and bearded seals.

Spotted seals are carnivores and feed primarily on fish, squid, and crustaceans. They are opportunistic feeders and will consume whatever prey is most abundant in their area. Spotted seals are known for their ability to dive deep in search of food, sometimes reaching depths of up to 300 feet.

Spotted seals are also known for their unique vocalizations, which include growls, barks, and trills. They form unique family groups that include the male, female, and pup. The trio stays together until the next mating season.

Meet Siku and Nuna

Mystic Aquarium is home to two spotted seals, Siku and Nuna. Both came to the Aquarium after being rescued in Alaska. At Mystic Aquarium, they share a habitat with harbor seals and northern fur seals. Siku is the older, and larger, of the two. At 8 years old and 150 pounds, she is a very high energy seal. Her trainers claim she has the best dance moves, and she enjoys getting sprayed by water, especially in her mouth. Her vibrissae (whiskers) take on an adorable curl when she hauls out to dry in the sun.

Nuna is 4 years old and 120 pounds. Although she’s one of the smaller animals in the habitat, she’s not intimidated by the seals that are much larger than she is. She’s sassy and eager to learn. She’s currently working on retrieval behavior. She’s catching on quickly and seems to be excited to get the behavior down!

Physically, Siku and Nuna are similar to each other in appearance. The main difference between the two right now is size. Siku is full grown, but Nuna is still growing and may catch up in size to Siku soon. Other than that, a close observer may notice that Siku’s snout is a little pointier than Nuna’s, but that can be a difficult characteristic to spot.

Threats & Conservation

Like all marine mammals, spotted seals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which makes it illegal in the United States to harm or harass them.

Although spotted seals are not currently classified as threatened or endangered, they face a number of threats, including climate change, pollution, and overfishing. Climate change is causing the sea ice that spotted seals rely on for breeding and hunting to melt, which may lead to a decline in their population. Pollution, such as oil spills, can also have a significant impact on spotted seals by contaminating their food sources and damaging their habitat. Overfishing can lead to a reduction in the availability of prey for spotted seals, making it more difficult for them to find food. Researchers are studying the behavior and ecology of spotted seals to better understand their needs and develop effective conservation strategies.

At Mystic Aquarium, we take great pride in caring for the animal residents, including Siku, Nuna, and all the others. Our passionate and experienced team is eager to share their knowledge with you, so you can learn more about these amazing creatures and their habitat. We welcome you to join us and discover the wonders of marine life at Mystic Aquarium. Come and visit us soon and let us inspire you with our dedication to these fascinating animals.