The grey seal (Halichoerus grypus, meaning "hooked-nosed sea pig") is found on both shores of the North Atlantic Ocean. It is a large seal of the family Phocidae which are commonly referred to as "true seals" or "earless seals". It is the only species classified in the genus Halichoerus. Its name is spelled gray seal in the US; it is also known as Atlantic seal and the horsehead seal.
|Female with pup|
|Grey seal range.|
There are two recognized subspecies of this seal:
The type specimen of H. g. grypus (specimen ZMUC M11-1525, caught off the island of Amager) was rediscovered in 2016, and a DNA test showed it belonged to a Baltic Sea specimen rather than from Greenland, as had previously been assumed. The name H. g. grypus was therefore transferred to the Baltic subspecies (replacing H. g. macrorhynchus), and the name H. g. atlantica resurrected for the Atlantic subspecies.
Molecular studies have indicated that the eastern and western Atlantic populations have been genetically distinct for at least one million years, and could potentially be considered as separate subspecies.
It is a large seal, with bulls in the eastern Atlantic populations reaching 2.5–3.3 m (8.2–10.8 ft) long and weighing 170–310 kg (370–680 lb); the cows are much smaller, typically 1.6–2.0 m (5.2–6.6 ft) long and 100–190 kg (220–420 lb) in weight. Individuals from the western Atlantic are often much larger, with males reaching 400 kg (880 lb) and females weighing up to 250 kg (550 lb). It is distinguished from the harbor seal by its straight head profile, nostrils set well apart, and fewer spots on its body. Grey seals lack external ear flaps and characteristically have large snouts. Bull Greys have larger noses and a less curved profile than common seal bulls. Males are generally darker than females, with lighter patches and often scarring around the neck. Females are silver grey to brown with dark patches.
In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the grey seal breeds in several colonies on and around the coasts. Notably large colonies are at Blakeney Point in Norfolk, Donna Nook in Lincolnshire, the Farne Islands off the Northumberland Coast (about 6,000 animals), Orkney and North Rona. off the north coast of Scotland, Lambay Island off the coast of Dublin and Ramsey Island off the coast of Pembrokeshire. In the German Bight, colonies exist off the islands Sylt and Amrum and on Heligoland.
In the Western North Atlantic, the grey seal is typically found in large numbers in the coastal waters of Canada and south to Nantucket in the United States. In Canada, it is typically seen in areas such as the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Newfoundland, the Maritimes, and Quebec. The largest colony in the world is at Sable Island, NS. In the United States it is found year-round off the coast of New England, in particular Maine and Massachusetts. Archaeological evidence confirms grey seals in southern New England with remains found on Block Island, Martha's Vineyard and near the mouth of the Quinnipiac River in New Haven, Connecticut. Its natural range now extends much further south than previously recognized with confirmed sightings in North Carolina. Also, there is a report by Farley Mowat of historic breeding colonies as far south as Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
Besides these very large colonies, many much smaller ones exist, some of which are well known as tourist attractions despite their small size. Such colonies include one on the Carrack rocks in Cornwall.
During the winter months grey seals can be seen hauled out on rocks, islands, and shoals not far from shore, occasionally coming ashore to rest. In the spring recently weaned pups and yearlings occasionally strand on beaches after becoming separated from their group.
The grey seal feeds on a wide variety of fish, mostly benthic or demersal species, taken at depths down to 70 m (230 ft) or more. Sand eels (Ammodytes spp) are important in its diet in many localities. Cod and other gadids, flatfish, herring, wrasse and skates are also important locally. However, it is clear that the grey seal will eat whatever is available, including octopus and lobsters. The average daily food requirement is estimated to be 5 kg (11 lb), though the seal does not feed every day and it fasts during the breeding season.
Recent observations and studies from Scotland, The Netherlands and Germany show that grey seals will also prey and feed on large animals like harbour seals and harbour porpoises. In 2014, a male grey seal in the North Sea was documented and filmed killing and cannibalizing 11 pups of its own species over the course of a week. Similar wounds on the carcasses of pups found elsewhere in the region suggest that cannibalism and infanticide may not be uncommon in grey seals. Male grey seals may engage in such behavior potentially as a way of increasing reproductive success through access to easy prey without leaving prime territory.
Grey seals are capital breeders; they forage to build up stored blubber, which is utilized when they are breeding and weaning their pups, as they do not forage for food at this time. They give birth to a single pup every year, with females' reproductive years beginning as early as 4 years old and extending up to 30 years of age. All parental care is provided by the female. During breeding, males don't provide parental care but they defend females against other males for mating. The pups are born at around the mass of 14 kg. They are born in autumn (September to December) in the eastern Atlantic and in winter (January to February) in the west, with a dense, soft silky white fur; at first small, they rapidly fatten up on their mothers' extremely fat-rich milk. The milk can consist of up to 60% fat. Grey seal pups are precocial, with mothers returning to sea to forage once pups are weaned. Pups also undergo a post-weaning fast before leaving land and learning to swim. Within a month or so they shed the pup fur, grow dense waterproof adult fur, and leave for the sea to learn to fish for themselves. In recent years, the number of grey seals has been on the rise in the west and in the U.S. and Canada there have been calls for a seal cull.
Seal pup first year survival rates are estimated to vary from 80-85% to below 50% depending on location and conditions. Starvation, due to difficulties in learning to feed, appears to be the main cause of pup death.
After near extirpation from hunting grey seals for oil, meat and skins in the United States, sightings began to increase in the late 1980s. Bounties were paid on all kinds of seals up until 1945 in Maine and 1962 in Massachusetts. One year after Congress passed the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act preventing the harming or harassing of seals, a survey of the entire Maine coast found only 30 grey seals. At first grey seal populations increased slowly then rebounded from islands off Maine to Monomoy Island and Nantucket Island off of southern Cape Cod. The southernmost breeding colony was established on Muskeget Island with five pups born in 1988 and over 2,000 counted in 2008. According to a genetics study, the United States population has formed as a result of recolonization by Canadian seals. By 2009, thousands of grey seals had taken up residence on or near popular swimming beaches on outer Cape Cod, resulting in sightings of great white sharks drawn close to shore to hunt the seals. A count of 15,756 grey seals in southeastern Massachusetts coastal waters was made in 2011 by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Grey seals are being seen increasingly in New York and New Jersey waters, and it is expected that they will establish colonies further south.
In the UK seals are protected under the Conservation of Seals Act 1970, however it does not apply to Northern Ireland. In the UK there have also been calls for a cull from some fishermen, claiming that stocks have declined due to the seals.
The population in the Baltic Sea has increased about 8% per year between 1990 and the mid-2000s with the numbers becoming stagnant since 2005. As of 2011 hunting grey seals is legal in Sweden and Finland with 50% of the quota being used. Other anthropogenic causes of death include drowning in fishing gear.
Grey seals have proved amenable to life in captivity and are commonly found zoo animals around their native range, particularly in Europe. Traditionally they were popular circus animals and often used in performances such as balancing and display acts. At least one grey seal, probably escaped from captivity, has been observed in the Black Sea near the coasts of Ukraine.
Elton John performs a song called "Grey Seal" (lyrics by Bernie Taupin) on the album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. The song attributes wisdom to the seal: "And tell me, grey seal, how does it feel / To be so wise / To see through eyes / That only see what's real?"
Scottish scholar David Thomson published, in 1954, his study of the grey seals, The People of the Sea: A Journey in Search of the Seal Legend. He discusses "the Celtic seal legend - that the seal was once human, and can sometimes resume human form - and about the Celtic fishing families who still tell and sing the tales and songs about the selchie, or grey Atlantic seal." The Secret of Roan Inish is a 1994 American/Irish film written and directed by John Sayles, which deals with the same materials.
In 2003, the Finnish film The Grey Seals of the Baltic added facts to the legends.
Analysis of fish otolithes and other hard particles in the alimentary tract showed clearly that the herring (Clupea harengus) was the most important item of prey.
In the fall of 1997, Elton John set out on tour to promote his latest album The Big Picture with the Big Picture Tour. The album was a commercial success reaching No. 9 on the US Billboard 200 and No. 3 on the UK Albums Chart. The 1997 tour started off in North America and ended in Europe.The second year of the tour also started off in North America but was interrupted by John's and Billy Joel's 1998 Face to Face Tour. Elton returned to the US after the tour before completing four sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden and returning and ending the tour in Europe.Donna Nook
Donna Nook is a point on the low-lying coast of north-Lincolnshire, England, north of the village of North Somercotes. The area, a salt marsh, is used by a number of Royal Air Force stations in Lincolnshire for bombing practice and shares its name with RAF Donna Nook. The site was also made available to commercial organisations such as BMARC for firing tests.
Wildlife seem to have become accustomed to regular aircraft bombing according to The Wildlife Trust. The name is popularly supposed to be derived from a ship called The Donna, part of the Spanish Armada, which sank off the Nook (a small headland) in 1588.A 6 miles (10 km) coastal strip stretching from Saltfleet in the south, to Somercotes Haven in the north, is managed by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust as a nature reserve. It is part of the land owned by the Ministry of Defence and used as a bombing range. The grey seal population return to breed from October to December every year. In 2007, the seal colony had its best breeding season on record, with about 1,194 pups born to the 3,500 resident grey seal colony. A double wooden fence was erected in 2007 to stop people touching the newborn pups.
The reserve, staffed by volunteer wardens, is accessible to the public. Media coverage of Donna Nook has led to a big increase in visitor numbers; it was visited by about 43,000 people in 2006. Surplus money collected through sales is used to further support the protection of seals.
The Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust has asked walkers and photographers to stay in the public viewing area and to avoid going out onto the sands, following an increase in seal mortality which coincided with an increase in visitor numbers in 2010 and criticism of the disturbance caused by photographers.Earless seal
The earless seals, phocids or true seals are one of the three main groups of mammals within the seal lineage, Pinnipedia. All true seals are members of the family Phocidae . They are sometimes called crawling seals to distinguish them from the fur seals and sea lions of the family Otariidae. Seals live in the oceans of both hemispheres and, with the exception of the more tropical monk seals, are mostly confined to polar, subpolar, and temperate climates. The Baikal seal is the only species of exclusively freshwater seal.Face to Face 1998
Riding on the success of the previous two tours Elton John and Billy Joel once again hit the stadiums. The tour had previously only toured in the United States and Canada, but this time they visited Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Europe, avoiding any North American cities.On 6 June, Joel pulled out of a concert at Wembley Stadium in London, England due to illness. John performed the show without him, but he performed several of Joel's songs. The same happened in Zurich, Switzerland at Letzigrund Stadium on 30 June; this was the last night of the 1998 tour.Joel stated in 2012 that he would no longer tour with Elton because it restrains his setlists.Faray
Faray (Old Norse: Færey) is a small island in Orkney, Scotland, lying between Eday and Westray. Previously inhabited, the low-lying island is now a successful grey seal breeding colony.Follow the Yellow Brick Road Tour
Follow the Yellow Brick Road Tour was a concert tour by British musician Elton John taking place in North America and Europe in promotion of the 40th anniversary re-release of 1973's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is the seventh studio album by Elton John, released in 1973. The album has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide and is widely regarded as John's best. It was recorded at the Château d'Hérouville in France after problems recording at the intended location in Jamaica. Among the 17 tracks, the album contains the hits "Candle in the Wind", "Bennie and the Jets", "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" and "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" plus "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" and "Harmony".
The move to the château from Jamaica provided John and his band with a great deal of creative inspiration, and an abundance of quality material was produced, leading to the decision to release the work as a double album (LP).In 2003, the album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. The album was ranked number 91 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, and number 59 in Channel 4's 2009 list of 100 Greatest Albums. The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You DieInnarahu
Innarahu is a small, uninhabited Baltic Sea islet belonging to the country of Estonia.
Innarahu is a protected island belonging to Vilsandi National Park, off the western coast of the larger island of Saaremaa.The island is a calving ground for Baltic grey seals (Halichoerus grypus).Jimmie Dale
Jimmie Dale is a fictional character created by Frank L. Packard in 1914.Laidevahe Nature Reserve
Laidevahe Nature Reserve (Estonian: Laidevahe looduskaitseala) is a nature reserve situated on Saaremaa in western Estonia, in Saare County.
Laidevahe nature reserve protects an area of coastal wetlands, comprising salt marshes, islets, small lagoons, coastal meadows and so on, but also areas of old-growth forest and alvars. The area is internationally recognized as an important habitat for several species of birds, including the white-tailed eagle which has bred in the area since at least 1995. Other notable bird species found in Laidevahe are dunlin (Calidris alpina), barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis) and little crake (Porzana parva). The coastal nature reserve is also rich in fish, and in addition is a habitat for both otter and grey seal. As for the flora, several species of orchid grow in the nature reserve - for example, early purple orchid, greater butterfly orchid and lady slipper orchids.Little Linga
Little Linga is a small island in the Shetland Islands. It is near West Linga and Vidlin on Mainland, Shetland. It is 20 metres (66 ft) at its highest point. It measures 500 metres (550 yd) from north to south.
Little Linga is an important colony for the Atlantic grey seal, with approximately 500 pups being born on the island each autumn. In addition the island has a breeding population of around 80 pairs of cormorants on raised nests of seaweed and 200 pairs of fulmars.
Surrounding islands include the Calf of Little Linga, Score Holm, and Beilla Skerry.
On 21 June 2016 it was acquired by the Scottish Wildlife Trust.Norrard Rocks
The Norrard (Northern) Rocks are a group of small uninhabited granite rocks in the north–western part of the Isles of Scilly, to the west of Bryher and Samson. In 1971 they were designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for their breeding seabird colonies and they are permanently closed to landings from boat passengers. The vegetation on the islands is limited by the extreme exposure and only six species of flowering plants have been recorded.Protected areas of Finland
The protected areas of Finland include national parks, nature reserves and other areas, with a purpose of conserving areas of all of Finland's ecosystems and biotopes.
Protected areas include:
National parks of Finland (Kansallispuisto/Nationalpark) - 8,170 km²
Strict nature reserves of Finland (Luonnonpuisto/Naturreservat) - 1,530 km²
Mire reserves of Finland (Soidensuojelualue/Myrskyddsområde) - 4,490 km²
Protected herb-rich forest areas (Lehtojensuojelualue/Lundskyddsområde) - 13 km²
Protected old-growth forest areas (Vanhat metsät/Gamla skogar) - 100 km²
Grey seal protection areas (Hylkeidensuojelualue/Sälskyddsområde) - 190 km²
Other protected areas on state-owned land - 468 km²The state-owned protected areas cover a total of 14,961 km² while 1,220 km² are on private land.Ragged-jacket
A ragged-jacket (or, occasionally, "raggedy-jacket") is the name given to a harp or grey seal pup when it is undergoing its first moult, and the intermediate stage between a "whitecoat" and a "beater". The moulting begins when the pup is at an age of about 12–14 days, at which time they cease nursing. At this young age, the pups are not yet capable of swimming. The pup stays on the ice for about two weeks before the fur has moulted. It does not feed during this time and therefore loses weight. When the white fur has been completely shed at around four weeks of age, the seal is called a "beater".Rock and Roll Madonna
"Rock And Roll Madonna" is a rock and roll song by Elton John with lyrics written by Bernie Taupin. The song was released as a single in Britain in 1970, where it never charted. It appeared on several bootlegs and rarities compilations, such as 1992's Rare Masters, before it appeared on the 1995 remaster of his self-titled album. The song structure is, as the title says, a rock and roll song. Live-effects have been added, with an audience cheering throughout most of the song, anticipating similar usage in Bennie and the Jets.Saltee Islands
The Saltee Islands (Irish: Na Sailtí ) are a pair of small islands lying 5 kilometres off the southern coast of County Wexford in Ireland. The two islands are Great Saltee (89 hectares) and Little Saltee (37 hectares). They have been largely unoccupied since the early 20th century and have been privately owned by the Neale family since 1943. Together the islands cover an area of 1.2 square kilometers.The Diving Board Tour
The Diving Board Tour was a concert tour by British musician Elton John taking place in North, South and Central America and Europe in promotion of John's 2013 album The Diving Board.Whitecoat
A whitecoat is a newborn harp or grey seal with soft, white fur.Zone Point
Zone Point (Cornish: Sawan Hir, meaning long chasm) is the southernmost extremity of the Roseland peninsula extending into Falmouth Bay near St Mawes in Cornwall, United Kingdom at grid reference SW8430.
It is approximately 500 metres (550 yards) east-southeast of the St. Anthony's Lighthouse on St Anthony Head. The cliffs make the beach between Zone Point and St Anthony Head inaccessible from land and the small bay is the site of many Atlantic grey seal sightings; Atlantic grey seal pups can be seen on this beach from the headland and the sea.
The top of Zone Point is pasture with scrubby slopes. The South West Coast Path marks the transition between the two ecotypes.
The origin of the name Zone Point first appears in the 1597 map of the River Fal by Baptista Boazio as Savenheer, or the long coved point.
Extant Carnivora species