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Seals – The Perfect Swimmer

Image of a White Baby Seal - Seals Quiz for Kids
There are more than 30 species of seals living in many parts of the world.

When you think of a seal, you might think of the animals that perform tricks at water amusement parks, but these animals are usually sea lions, not seals. Sea lions have large front flippers which help them get around on land, while seals are slow and awkward. Seals are definitely made for swimming!

Seals are a group of aquatic mammals that are characterized by their streamlined bodies, flippers, and a thick layer of blubber. They are found in both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, as well as in temperate and tropical waters.

Seals are carnivorous and feed on a variety of prey, including fish, squid, and crustaceans. They are also known for their ability to dive to great depths and hold their breath for extended periods of time. Seals are an important part of marine ecosystems and are often hunted for their meat, oil, and fur.

White Baby Seal in the Arctic Image - Science for Kids All About Seals
All About Seals: There are more than 30 species of seals living in many parts of the world.

Seal Facts for Kids

  • Seals are marine mammals, living mostly in the ocean.
  • Seals can hold their breath for up to 2 hours!
  • There are over 30 different types of seals.
  • Seals have a thick layer of blubber to stay warm.
  • Most seals eat fish and squid.
  • Baby seals are called pups.
  • Some seals can dive deeper than 1000 meters!
  • Seals can live in both polar and tropical waters.
  • Seals communicate through various sounds and gestures.
  • Many seals spend half their life on land, and half in water.

Marine mammals

Seals are marine mammals, well-adapted to life in the water. They have streamlined bodies and flippers, enabling agile swimming. With a thick layer of blubber, seals stay warm in cold waters. Found in various habitats worldwide, they exhibit social behaviors and communicate through vocalizations and body movements. Seals are important marine creatures, showcasing the diversity of marine mammals.

Elephant seals

Elephant seals are one of the largest types of seals. Males have distinct, trunk-like noses. These seals weigh up to 8,800 pounds and measure over 16 feet long. They inhabit the Pacific Ocean coastal areas. Known for their deep-diving skills, they can stay underwater for two hours and reach depths over 1000 meters.

Leopard seals

Leopard seals in Antarctica are known as top predators, thanks to their powerful jaws and sharp teeth. They can grow up to 11 feet long and are recognizable by their sleek, spotted coats, which is where they get their name. They primarily feed on other seals, penguins, and a variety of fish, showcasing their diverse diet. Unlike other seal species, leopard seals are mostly solitary animals, often seen alone rather than in groups. Their formidable hunting skills and adaptability allow them to thrive in the harsh, icy conditions of the Antarctic.

Grey seals

Grey seals eat a variety of fish, including herring, sand eels, and cod. They reach up to 10 feet long and live in the North Atlantic. Recognizable by their distinctive coats, they’re excellent divers. Grey seals rest on rocky shores and sandy beaches, where they molt, breed, and give birth.

Marine seals

Marine seals are excellent swimmers, using their streamlined bodies and flippers to move quickly. These seals, including species like the harbor seal and grey seal, live in various water temperatures. Their diet consists mainly of fish, squid, and crustaceans. Some species can stay submerged for over an hour when hunting.

Arctic seals

Arctic seals have a thick layer of blubber for insulation and energy storage. Species like the ringed seal and the harp seal inhabit the Arctic. Their diet consists of fish and invertebrates. They form dens in the snow on sea ice for shelter and breeding.

Harbor seals

Harbor seals live in coastal areas, including beaches and estuaries. Found across the northern hemisphere, they’re small seals recognized by their spotted coats. They mainly eat fish and squid and can dive up to 500 feet. Harbor seals often haul out on land to rest or escape predators.

Grey seals

Grey seals eat a variety of fish like herring and cod. They’re known for their speckled coats and live in the North Atlantic. A mature grey seal can dive over 300 meters to hunt. They come ashore on beaches to rest, molt, and breed.

Fur seals

Fur seals can hold their breath for long periods, enabling deep dives. They’re known for their thick fur and live in various regions, including the sub-Antarctic islands. Their diet consists of fish and squid. Fur seals also spend time on land, particularly during the breeding season. They use their flippers for swift, agile swimming in their ocean habitats

Southern Elephant Seal

The southern elephant seal is a species of elephant seal, known for its enormous size and long nose. It’s the largest seal and lives in the Southern Hemisphere, particularly in sub-Antarctic and Antarctic regions. They breed on islands such as South Georgia and the Falkland Islands. Males are larger than females, reaching over 20 feet and weighing up to 8,800 pounds.

Antarctic seals

Antarctic seals migrate long distances for food, displaying their adaptability. Species like the Weddell seal, leopard seal, and crabeater seal thrive in the harsh Antarctic environment. They primarily feed on fish, squid, and krill and are skilled divers, reaching depths of over a thousand meters. These seals also create breathing holes in the sea ice, showcasing their survival abilities.

Diverse Seals: From Small to Large

There are more than 30 species of seals living in many parts of the world. Seals eat fish, birds and shellfish and most of them live in cold water where fish are plentiful. The Caspian seal is one of the world’s smallest seal, weighing as much as an adult woman (110 to 190 pounds). Elephant seals, the world’s largest seal, measure 20 feet long and can weigh as much as 8,800 pounds!

Caspian Seal on the Sand Image
The Caspian seal is the world’s smallest seal, weighing as much as an adult woman (110 to 190 pounds).

Fun Facts about Seals for Kids

  • Some seals migrate hundreds of miles every year in search of food.
  • Seals can dive to great depths underwater and stay there for up to two hours.
  • Seals use clicking or trilling noises to communicate.
  • Male seals are called bulls; females are called cows; babies are called pups.
  • Seals have a thick layer of fat called blubber under their skin to keep them warm in icy water. They are warm-blooded.
  • Elephant seals are the largest of the seal species. There are 2 different types of elephant seals: Northern and Southern.
  • Seals can live for 30 years or more. Females tend to live longer than males.
  • Great white sharks, Orca Whales, and Polar Bears are all predators of seals.
  • All seals belong to a mammal group called Pinnipeds, which means “wing-footed”.
  • The leopard seal has been known to feed on other seals.
  • Milk from mother seals contains 50% fat.
  • The closest living relative to seals on land is believed to be dogs and bears.
  • Unfortunately, seals often get caught up in fishing nets, and pollution of our ocean from plastics and chemical waste also poses a massive threat.
  • The global seal population is unknown but it is estimated to be in the hundreds of millions.
Elephant Seal in the Shore Image
Elephant seals, the world’s largest seal, measure 20 feet long and can weigh as much as 8,800 pounds!

Seal Vocabulary

  1. Flipper: hand designed for swimming
  2. Shellfish: clams, mussels, and other fish with hard shells
  3. Migrate: travel
  4. Trill: whistle
  5. Blubber: fat

Learn More All About Seals

Take a peek at this stunning video of seals:

A video documentary of seals defending their territory.

Seal Q&A

Question: Do seals live on land?

Answer: Seals come on land to rest, mate and take care of new babies.


Question: Do mother seals give birth alone?

Answer: Most seal mothers gather together to give birth on beaches. Mom uses her sense of smell to find her baby in the hundreds of other babies on the beach.