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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, North American Mammals

  Carnivora · Phocidae · Erignathus barbatus

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Erignathus barbatus

Bearded Seal

Order: Carnivora
Family: Phocidae

Image of Erignathus barbatus
Erignathus barbatus - adult on ice floe, juvenile in water
Click to enlarge. (47 kb)

Conservation Status: Least Concern.

Bearded seals have relatively small heads and prominent whiskers. Males and females are similar in size and appearance. They live in the north Pacific and north Atlantic, usually where there is moving ice and open water less than 150-200 m deep. They typically feed near the bottom of the sea on fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. Socially, in a kind of ritualized competition, males gather and vocalize and display to advertise their breeding condition and status, in hopes of attracting receptive females. During the breeding season, the seals produce trill-like calls that last as long as 30 seconds and can carry underwater for distances of 25 km or more. It may be that only males make trill calls: much remains to be learned about bearded seals. Polar bears are their main predator.

Also known as:


Sexual Dimorphism:

Females are slightly longer than males.


Range: 2-2.6 m


Range: 225-360 kg


Erxleben, J.C.P., 1777.  Systema regni animalis per classes, ordines, genera, species, varietas, cum synonymia et historia animalium.  Classis I, Mammalia, 1:590.  Wegand, Leipzig, 636 pp.


Mammal Species of the World (opens in a new window).

Distribution of Erignathus barbatus

Image of Erignathus barbatus
Click to enlarge. (34kb)

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