Types Of Seals

How many types of seals are there, what differentiates them from other animals like sea lions and walruses, and what do they eat? Seals are fascinating creatures, and in this guide, we’ll take a deeper dive into their history, biology, and more.

What Are Seals?

Seals are a type of carnivorous, semiaquatic marine mammal that spans 33 extant species, with over 50 others known to be extinct.

The word “seal” is believed to come from Old English and Proto-German, although its exact origins are unknown. What we do know is that it’s not connected to the verb “to seal”, as in “to seal an envelope”.

Seals are a type of “Pinniped”, the origin for which is a little clearer. This word derives from the Latin for “fin foot”, which is pretty self-explanatory.

There are three types of pinnipeds: the walrus, which is the only member of the Odobenidae family; the Otariidae, which includes sea lions and fur seals, and the Phocidae or “true seals”, which are the main subject of this guide.

You could be forgiven for thinking that seals were closely related to whales and other marine mammals. After all, they are stocky, blubbery animals that live in the water. In actual fact, they are more closely related to land predators like bears and dogs. They are also related to weasels, which makes a little more sense.

We’re talking about very distant relatives, though. In fact, the Pinnipeds diverged from this greater family group over 50 million years ago.

What Type of Fish Do Seals Eat?

Seals are not very picky when it comes to fish. They will eat whatever they can find and they usually look for fish that live close to the sea bottom, including cod and flatfish. Many types of seals are also known to feed on hake, salmon, flounder, and herring.

The Types of Seals

There are 33 types of seals and these share many similarities with regards to their appearance and diet. Here’s a snapshot of the different types of seals that are alive today:

Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus monachus)

  • Average Size: 7.9 feet (2.4 m)
  • Average Weight: 550 to 660 pounds (250 – 300kg)
  • Lifespan: 20 to 25 years

Hawaiian Monk Seal (Neomonachus schauinslandi)

  • Average Size: 6.8 to 7.8 ft (2.1 to 2.4m)
  • Average Weight: Males weigh 308 to 396 lbs. (140-180kg) and Females weigh 396 to 595 lbs. (180 to 270 kg)
  • Lifespan: 25 – 30 years old

Northern Elephant Seal (Mirounga angustirostris)

  • Average Size: Males measure 14 feet and females measure around 11 feet
  • Average Weight: Males weigh around 3300 to 5510 lbs. (1500 to 2300 kg) and females weigh around 880 to 1980 lbs. (400 to 900 kg)
  • Lifespan: Around 9 years

Southern Elephant Seal (Mirounga leonina)

  • Average Size: Males measure 14 to 19 feet and females measure 8.5 to 9.8 feet
  • Average Weight: Males weigh 4850 to 8820 lbs. (2200 to 4000 kg) and females weigh 880 to 1980 lbs. (400 to 900 kg)
  • Lifespan: Around 21 years

Ross Seal (Ommatophoca rossii)

  • Average Size: 5.5 ft to 8.2 ft (1.68 to 2.5 m)
  • Average Weight: Around 400 pounds
  • Lifespan: 21 years

Crabeater Seal (Lobodon carcinophaga)

  • Average Size: Around 7.5 feet (Females are approximately 2.4 inches longer)
  • Average Weight: Around 440 pounds
  • Lifespan: up to 39 years old

Leopard Seal (Hydrurga leptonyx)

  • Average Size: 7.9 to 11.5 feet
  • Average Weight: 440 to 1310 lbs.
  • Lifespan: Up to 26 years

Weddell Seal (Leptonychotes weddellii)

  • Average Size: 8 ft 2 to 11 ft 6 (length)
  • Average Weight: 880 to 1,320 lbs. (400 to 600 kg)
  • Lifespan: 18 years

Bearded Seal (Erignathus barbatus)

  • Average Size: 6 ft 11  to 8 ft 10  (2.1 to 2.7 m)
  • Average Weight: 441 to 948 lb. (200 to 430 kg)
  • Lifespan: 30 years

Hooded Seal (Cystophora cristata)

  • Average Size: Males measure 8.5 to 11.5 ft and females measure around 6.5 ft
  • Average Weight: Males weigh 770 lbs. and females weigh 440 lbs.
  • Lifespan: 30 to 35 years

Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina)

  • Average Size: 6.1 ft (1.85 m)
  • Average Weight: 370 lbs. (168 kg)
  • Lifespan: 20 to 35 years

Spotted Seal (Phoca largha)

  • Average Size: 4.59 to 6.89 ft (1.5 to 2.1 meters)
  • Average Weight: 180 and 240 pounds (81 to 109 kg) 
  • Lifespan: 35 years

Ringed Seal (Pusa hispida

  • Average Size: 39.5 to 69 inches (100 to 175 cm)
  • Average Weight: (71 to 309 lbs.) (32 to 140 kg)
  • Lifespan: 40 years

Baikal Seal (Pusa sibirica)

  • Average Size: 3 ft 7 to 4 ft 7 (1.1 to 1.4 m)
  • Average Weight: 290 lb. (130 kg)
  • Lifespan: 50 years

Caspian Seal (Pusa caspica)

  • Average Size: 126 to 129 cm (50 to 51 in)
  • Average Weight: Around 190 lbs. (86 kg)
  • Lifespan: 26 to 50 years

Harp Seal (Pagophilus groenlandicus)

  • Average Size: 5 ft 7 to 6 ft 7 (1.7 to 2.0 m)
  • Average Weight: 254 to 309 lb. (115 to 140 kg)
  • Lifespan: 30 years

Gray Seal (Halichoerus grypus)

  • Average Size: 6 ft 5 to 7 ft 7 (1.95 to 2.3 m)
  • Average Weight: 220 to 420 lb. (100 to 190 kg)
  • Lifespan: 25 to 35 years

Where Can you Find Seals in California?

The Channel Islands are a great place to go seal spotting in California. There are four types of seals that call this region home: Northern fur seals, harbor seals, and elephant seals.

You can also see plenty of California sea lions around the Channel Islands.

FAQs About Seals

If you still have a question about the many types of seals, take a look at the following FAQs.

How Big Are Elephant Seals?

Some elephant seals can reach lengths of 20 feet and weigh over 8,000 pounds.

What Is The Most Common Species Of Seal?

Harbor seals are often known as “common seals”, and they are also the most common seals in the world. You can find common seals everywhere from the North Sea to the Pacific Ocean.

What Is The Cutest Type Of Seal?

It’s a pretty subjective question, but many would argue that the beautiful white coat and black eyes of baby harp seals make them the cutest seals.

What is the Biggest Type of Seal?

Southern Elephant Seals are the largest types of seals. They are also the largest animal in the Pinniped and Carnivoran class and are nearly twice the size of Northern elephant seals, which are the second-largest seals.

What Type Of Seals Are Endangered?

There are several types of seals that are endangered, including Mediterranean monk seals, which are thought to number in the hundreds and have fallen victim to commercial hunting.

Hawaiian monk seals are facing the same issues, and they’re not alone. If we continue to hunt seals and destroy their habitats, the numbers will continue to fall and some of these beautiful creatures will be wiped off the face of the earth.

How Many Types Of Seals Live In Antarctica?

There are six different types of seals living in the Antarctic, including elephant seals, crabeater seals, leopard seals, Ross seals, Weddell seals, and fur seals.

Are Seals Friendly?

Seals can be trained and they are very smart creatures. However, the trained seals that you see in zoos are not like the wild ones that you encounter on the beach. If they are scared or provoked, they will attack. It’s important to remember that wild seals are not accustomed to being around humans and they are not comfortable around dogs, either.

Are Seals and Sea Lions the Same?

Although both seals and sea lions are Pinnipeds, they are not the same animals.

Sea lions are more comfortable on land and can “walk” using their flippers. They also have visible ear flaps, a brown coloration, and make a distinctive barking noise. Seals are more prone to wriggling than walking and they don’t have ear flaps.