Harbor seal is the official state marine mammal of Rhode Island. It was entitled as the official state marine mammal of Rhode Island in 2008. The scientific name of the Harbor seal is Phoca vitulina. It is also known as Common seal or Eastern Atlantic common seals, Pacific common seals, insular seals, Ungava seals, Western Atlantic common seals.
The Rhode Island’s state marine mammal – harbor Seal is a true seal, which are found in the Northern Hemisphere’s temperate and Arctic marine coastlines like the coastal waters of northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the Baltic and North Seas. On July 14, 2016 the Legislature of Rhode Island designated the harbor seal as the official state marine mammal of Rhode Island.
State marine mammal of Rhode Island Facts—
- Common Name: Harbor Seal or Harbour Seal, Common seal or Eastern Atlantic common seals, Pacific common seals, Insular seals, Ungava seals, Western Atlantic common seals
- Scientific Name: Phoca vitulina
- Color: Harbor seals are brown, silvery white, tan, or gray.
- Length: Males measure at around 63-75 inches and females 63-67 inches.
- Weight: Males weigh between 176 and 375 lbs while females are 132-320 lbs.
- Diet: Mainly prey fish like herring, anchovy, sea bass, cod, whiting and flatfish and also eat shrimp, mollusks and squid.
- Cubs: 1 pup a year
- Lifespan: Females in between 30–35 years while males are 20–25 years.
The state marine mammal of Rhode Island, the Harbor seals have a rounded, spindle-shaped body with brown, tan, or gray in color. Spots or rings are visible on the dorsal surface (backside) and much more sparse on the underside. Its body and flippers are short, with a large, rounded head and V-shaped nostrils. Females are generally smaller than males. Harbor seals are inquisitive but timid animals, which prefer quiet, unpopulated areas. Seals choose to “haul out” on protected beaches, bars, spits, rocks and log rafts to bask in the sun and sleep.
Harbor seals often haul out at low tide to rest, digest food, give birth, or nurse their young. Harbor seals stop breathing underwater so that their heart rate decreases leading to the protection of energy. They also exhale before a deep dive, which facilitates the oxygen accrue into the muscles and blood, essentially plummeting the oxygen content in the lungs. The flippers assist them to travel around in the water, which rear pair propelling them forward, and the front two helping them to steer.
They sleep in the water using a posture known as ‘bottling,’ in which their bodies are flooded in the water vertically, with only the heads above the surface to aid in breathing. Rhode Island’s state marine mammal harbor seals feature a gray pelage, or coat when it matured, which turns brown with weathering. Young harbor seals are silver with creamy white stomachs, chests, and throats. Pups are black and woolly with fuzzy short hair. Newborn pups are clad in a black natal fur.
Harbor seals are mainly prey fish like herring, anchovy, sea bass, cod, whiting and flatfish and also eat shrimp, mollusks and squid. Harbor seals do not chew their food; they either tear it into chunks or swallow it whole. They forage in depths from 10m-40m along the slopes of coral reefs. The state marine mammal of Rhode Island, the Harbor seals do not migrate, although certain individuals may scatter over long distances. These animals are mostly introverts, although females will sometimes foster another female’s pup. Females with pups are extremely sensitive to disturbances; they will threaten, or if necessary, attack intruders.