Friday, November 11, 2011

Life of Fur Seal

Life of Sea | Fur Seal | Fur seals are one of the nine species of Pinnipeds in the Otariidae family. One species, the northern fur seal inhabits the North Pacific, while seven species in the genus Arctocephalus are found mainly in the southern hemisphere. They are more akin to sea lions than true seals, and to share with them external ears, relatively long and muscular fore flippers, and the ability to walk on four legs. They are characterized by their dense undercoat, giving them a long time object of commercial hunting.

Fur seals share with other otariids the ability to use their hind limbs forward and go on all fours. Fur seals are generally smaller than sea lions. At less than 1 meter (3 ft 3 in), the Galapagos fur seal is the smallest of all pinnipeds. However, they often proportionately longer flippers, their fur tends to be darker and the vibrissae more prominent. Males are often more than five times heavier than the females, making them among the most sexually dimorphic of all mammal groups.

Typically, fur seals gather during the summer months each year in large assemblies at specific beaches or rocks to give birth and breed. All species are polygynous, meaning dominant males reproduce with more than one wife. For most species, a total gestation lasts about 11.5 months, including several months of delayed implantation of the embryo. 

While northern fur seal males aggressively select and defend the special women in their harems, males of species of southern fur seals tend to protect land areas and females are free to choose their partners according to their preferences or switch social hierarchy. After several consecutive days of taking care of newborn puppies, women go on foraging trips lasting as long as one week to take back to the colony to feed their young until they are weaned. Males rapidly during the reproductive season, willing to leave their wives or areas.

The rest of the year, fur seals lead a primarily pelagic existence in the open sea where the pursuit of their prey is abundant and plentiful. Fur seals feed on medium sized fish, squid and krill. Different types of the southern fur seal marine birds, especially penguins, as part of their diet. The fur seals themselves are attacked by sharks, killer whales and occasionally by larger sea lions.

Many fur seal species were heavily exploited by commercial hunters, especially during the 19th century when their fur was highly appreciated. Currently, most species protected and hunting is usually limited to subsistence harvest. Globally, most populations are considered healthy, mostly because they often prefer remote habitats that are relatively inaccessible to humans. However, environmental degradation, competition with fisheries and climate change can pose threats to some populations.

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