Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, North American Mammals
Search the Archive

  Carnivora · Phocidae · Halichoerus grypus
   Smithsonian Institution
   Copyright Notice
   Privacy Notice
Halichoerus grypus

Gray Seal

Order: Carnivora
Family: Phocidae

Image of Halichoerus grypus
Halichoerus grypus - male in back with female, pup, and subadult (lower right); inset shows color variations
Click to enlarge. (89 kb)

Conservation Status: Least Concern.

Some 15,000 gray seal pups are born annually on a 25-mile-long sand bar on an island off the coast of Nova Scotia. This is far from the seals' feeding grounds, and both males and females fast during the mating and birthing season. The pups gain huge amounts of weight, in the form of blubber, when they are nursing. The female's milk contains 10 to 15 times as much fat as in human milk. The blubber keeps them warm and becomes their energy supply for 3-4 weeks after weaning and before they can hunt for their own food.

Also known as:
Atlantic Seal, Horsehead Seal

Sexual Dimorphism:
Males are 15% larger and 30% heavier than females.

Average: 2.3 m males; 2 m females
Range: 2-2.7 m males; 1.6-2.2 m females

Average: 271 kg males; 207 kg females
Range: 240-320 kg males; 150-260 kg females


Fabricius, 1791.  Skrivter Naturhist,  Selskabet Copenhagen, 1(2):167.


Mammal Species of the World

Distribution of Halichoerus grypus

Image of Halichoerus grypus
Click to enlarge. (64kb)