Phoca is a genus of the earless seals, within the family Phocidae. It now contains just two species, the common seal (or harbour seal) and the spotted seal (or largha seal). Several species formerly listed under this genus have been split into the genera Pusa, Pagophilus, and Histriophoca. Until recently, Phoca largha has been considered a subspecies of Phoca vitulina but now is considered its own species. For this reason, the fossil history of the genus is unclear, and it has formerly been used as wastebasket taxon for a number of fossils of uncertain affinity.[1]

Common seal
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Clade: Pinnipedia
Family: Phocidae
Tribe: Phocini
Genus: Phoca
Linnaeus, 1758
  • P. largha
  • P. vitulina


Currently there are two members:

Image Scientific name Common Name Distribution
Phoca largha Bering Sea 2 Phoca largha spotted seal Beaufort, Chukchi, Bering and Okhotsk Seas
Seehund2cele4 Phoca vitulina common seal northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the Baltic and North Seas

Former members of Phoca:

Mating ecology

Harbour seal breast feeding 1150144
Harbour seal breastfeeding a pup. Shortly after weaning mating will occur.

Both harbour and spotted seals are aquatically mating pinnipeds.[2] Mating occurs in the water around the time when pups are weaned.[3] Females in estrus are typically more dispersed than land-breeding pinnipeds and the distinction between foraging and reproductive behavior is less apparent.[4] For this reason, it is difficult to study the mating patterns of this genus.[5]

Female harbour seals start making foraging trips shortly before weaning their pup and consequently are widely dispersed when in estrus.[6] Males restrict their range around the time females start to make these foraging trips.[7] Harbour seals follow a polygynous mating system.[8] More specifically it has been shown that male harbour seals partake in lek polygyny. Male seals defend underwater territories with well-defined boundaries.[3][9] The most valuable territories are near haulouts or along traffic corridors that provide maximum exposure to estrous females.[6] One male will occupy an area throughout the breeding season, and they will return to the same display area in consecutive years.[7] Female harbour seals receive direct benefits from being in a lek, as the congregation of males into an area makes mate selection easier because females do not have to travel as far and it also helps to reduce exposure to predators.

Spotted seal triad during the breeding season: lanugo-clad pup (left), mother (center), and attending male (right in water).

Harbour seal males use underwater vocalizations and display dives within their aquatic territories, for both female attraction and male-male competition.[10][6][5] Male harbour seal vocalizations consist of low-frequency broadband growls that peak in occurrence during the mating season.[5] Males vocalize and display in small, distinct territories covering around 40–135 m2.[7] Each display area is spatially discrete and can be separated by up to 250 meters.[7] Male harbour seals have considerable individual and geographic variation in their underwater vocalizations.[10] Territory holders use the acoustic displays of intruders to locate and challenge invaders and will respond aggressively to a male call.[11] Males assess each other by their vocalizations before deciding whether to respond.[12] These vocalizations are energetically expensive to produce and are honest signals of male quality and dominance. Male body condition will decline as the mating season progresses.[5]

Aquatic hierarchies in harbour seals develop before the breeding season and dominance is determined by direct male contests. These contests involve repeated confrontations between two males using surface splashing, fighting, paired somersaulting, and chasing techniques.[11] The hierarchies may aid in holding territories or to mate with females during the breeding season. The dominance relationships are determined by size and sex, with adult males dominant to sub-adult males, and sub-adult females submissive to all other social classes.[13] Aquatic courtship is long in duration and involves rolling, bubble blowing, and splashing to attract females.[12][3] Female choice appears to play a strong role in this mating system but it has yet to be formally studied.[11]

The mating system of spotted seals is quite different from harbour seals as spotted seals are serially monogamous.[14] During the breeding season, a male will join a female approximately ten days before the female gives birth to a pup from the previous years mating.[15][2] The pairs are considered to be territorial as they keep widely spaced from other spotted seals.[16] The social group consists of an isolated adult pair and the females pup.[15] The female spotted seal receives direct benefits from the male as he provides protection for her and the pup until it is weaned. Immediately after weaning mating occurs.[15]


  1. ^ Berta, A. & Churchill, M. (2012). "Pinniped Taxonomy: evidence for species and subspecies". Mammal Review. 42 (3): 207–234. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2907.2011.00193.x.
  2. ^ a b Burns, J. J. (2007). Harbor seal and spotted seal Phoca vitulina and P. largha. BMC Ecology, 7, 533-542.
  3. ^ a b c Sullivan, R. M. (1981). "Aquatic Displays and Interactions in Harbor Seals, Phoca vitulina, with Comments on Mating Systems". Journal of Mammalogy. 62: 825–831.
  4. ^ Van Parijs, S. M., Hastie, G. D., and Thompson, P. M. (1999). Geographical variation in temporal and spatial vocalization patterns of male harbour seals in the mating season. Animal Behaviour, 58, 1231–1239.
  5. ^ a b c d Hayes, Sean A.; Costa, Daniel P.; Harvey, James T.; Boeuf, BURNEY J. (2004-07-01). "AQUATIC MATING STRATEGIES OF THE MALE PACIFIC HARBOR SEAL (PHOCA VITULINA RICHARDII): ARE MALES DEFENDING THE HOTSPOT?". Marine Mammal Science. 20 (3): 639–656. doi:10.1111/j.1748-7692.2004.tb01184.x. ISSN 1748-7692.
  6. ^ a b c Parijs van, S. M., Thompson, P. M., Tollit, D. J. and Mackay, A. (1997). Distribution and activity of male harbor seals during the mating season. Animal Behavior, 54, 35-43.
  7. ^ a b c d Parijs van, S. M., Janik, V. M., and Thompson, P. M. (2000). Display-area size, tenure length, and site fidelity in the aquatically mating male harbour seal, Phoca vitulina. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 78, 2209-2217.
  8. ^ Coltman, D. W., Bowen, W. D., and Wright, J. M. (1998). Male mating success in an aquatically mating pinniped, the harbour seal (Phocu vitulina), assessed by micro- satellite DNA markers. Molecular Ecology 7, 627-638.
  9. ^ Hanggi, E. B., Schusterman, R. J. (1994). Underwater acoustic displays and individual variation in male harbour seals, Phoca vitulina. Animal Behaviour, 48, 1275–1283.
  10. ^ a b Van Parijs, Sofie M; Kovacs, Kit M (2002-07-01). "In-air and underwater vocalizations of eastern Canadian harbour seals, Phoca vitulina". Canadian Journal of Zoology. 80 (7): 1173–1179. doi:10.1139/z02-088. ISSN 0008-4301.
  11. ^ a b c Hayes, Sean A.; Kumar, Anurag; Costa, Daniel P.; Mellinger, David K.; Harvey, James T.; Southall, Brandon L.; Boeuf, Burney J. Le. "Evaluating the function of the male harbour seal, Phoca vitulina , roar through playback experiments". Animal Behaviour. 67 (6): 1133–1139. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2003.06.019.
  12. ^ a b Nicholson, T. E. (2000). Social structure and underwater behavior of harbor seals in southern Monterey Bay, California. M.S. thesis, San Francisco State University.
  13. ^ Sullivan, R. M. (1982). Agonistic behavior and dominance relationships in the harbor seal, Phoca vitulina. Journal of Mammalogy, 63, 554-569.
  14. ^ Beier, J. C., and Wartzok, D. (1979). Mating behavior of captive spotted seals (Phoca largha). Animal Behaviour, 27, 772-781.
  15. ^ a b c Burns, J. J. (2007). "Harbor Seal and Spotted Seal Phoca vitulina and P. largha". BMC Ecology. 7: 533–542.
  16. ^ Burns, J. J., Ray, G. C., Fay, F. H. and Shaughnessy, P. D. (1972). Adoption of a strange pup by the ice-inhabiting harbour seal, Phoca vitulina largha. Journal of Mammalogy, 53, 594-598.
Baikal seal

The Baikal seal, Lake Baikal seal or nerpa (Pusa sibirica), is a species of earless seal endemic to Lake Baikal in Siberia, Russia. Like the Caspian seal, it is related to the Arctic ringed seal. The Baikal seal is one of the smallest true seals and the only exclusively freshwater pinniped species. A subpopulation of inland harbour seals living in the Hudson's Bay region of Quebec, Canada (lac de loups marins harbour seals), the Saimaa ringed seal (a ringed seal subspecies) and the Ladoga seal (a ringed seal subspecies) are found in fresh water, but these are part of species that also have marine populations.The most recent population estimates are 80,000 to 100,000 animals, roughly equaling the expected carrying capacity of the lake. At present, the species is not considered threatened, despite hunting (both legal and illegal) and pollution of the lake.

Caspian seal

The Caspian seal (Pusa caspica) is one of the smallest members of the earless seal family and unique in that it is found exclusively in the brackish Caspian Sea. They are found not only along the shorelines, but also on the many rocky islands and floating blocks of ice that dot the Caspian Sea. In winter, and cooler parts of the spring and autumn season, these marine mammals populate the Northern Caspian. As the ice melts in the warmer season, they can be found on the mouths of the Volga and Ural Rivers, as well as the southern latitudes of the Caspian where cooler waters can be found due to greater depth.

Evidence suggests the seals are descended from Arctic ringed seals that reached the area from the north during an earlier part of the Quaternary period and became isolated in the landlocked Caspian Sea when continental ice sheets melted.

Diaulula phoca

Diaulula phoca is a species of sea slug or dorid nudibranch, a marine gastropod mollusk in the family Discodorididae.

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.

Harbor seal

The harbor (or harbour) seal (Phoca vitulina), also known as the common seal, is a true seal found along temperate and Arctic marine coastlines of the Northern Hemisphere. The most widely distributed species of pinniped (walruses, eared seals, and true seals), they are found in coastal waters of the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the Baltic and North Seas.

Harbor seals are brown, silvery white, tan, or gray, with distinctive V-shaped nostrils. An adult can attain a length of 1.85 m (6.1 ft) and a mass of 132 kg (290 lb). Blubber under the seal's skin helps to maintain body temperature. Females outlive males (30–35 years versus 20–25 years). Harbor seals stick to familiar resting spots or haulout sites, generally rocky areas (although ice, sand, and mud may also be used) where they are protected from adverse weather conditions and predation, near a foraging area. Males may fight over mates under water and on land. Females bear a single pup after a nine-month gestation, which they care for alone. Pups can weigh up to 16 kg (35 lb) and are able to swim and dive within hours of birth. They develop quickly on their mothers' fat-rich milk, and are weaned after four to six weeks.

The global population of harbor seals is 350,000–500,000, but subspecies in certain habitats are threatened. Once a common practice, sealing is now illegal in many nations within the animal's range.

Harp seal

The harp seal or saddleback seal, Pagophilus groenlandicus is a species of earless seal, or true seal, native to the northernmost Atlantic Ocean and Arctic Ocean. Originally in the genus Phoca with a number of other species, it was reclassified into the monotypic genus Pagophilus in 1844. In Latin, its scientific name translates to "ice-lover from Greenland," and its taxonomic synonym, Phoca groenlandica translates to "Greenlandic seal."

Influenza A virus subtype H10N7

H10N7 is a subtype of the species Influenza A virus (sometimes called bird flu virus). In 2004 in Egypt, H10N7 was reported for the first time in humans. It caused illness in two one-year-old infants, residents of Ismaillia, Egypt; one child's father a poultry merchant.The first reported H10N7 outbreak in the US occurred in Minnesota on two turkey farms in 1979 and on a third in 1980. "The clinical signs ranged from severe, with a mortality rate as high as 31%, to subclinical. Antigenically indistinguishable viruses were isolated from healthy mallards on a pond adjacent to the turkey farms".The Influenza A (H10N7) virus was also held responsible for an increased mortality of harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) in Europe in 2014. First cases were reported in spring 2014 in Sweden and subsequently spread to Denmark. Within a few month the virus spread to the Wadden Sea area of Germany and the Netherlands causing the death of about 10% of the local harbour seal population.

Ladoga seal

The Ladoga ringed seal (Russian: Ладожская нерпа; Pusa hispida ladogensis), is a freshwater subspecies of the ringed seal (Pusa hispida) which are found entirely in Lake Ladoga in northwestern Russia. The subspecies evolved during the last ice age, about 11,000 years ago. As the glaciers retreated and water levels changed, the Baltic ringed seal (including Ladoga seals) was trapped in freshwater lakes and separated from the Arctic ringed seal.

It is related to the even smaller population of Saimaa ringed seals in Lake Saimaa, a lake that flows into Ladoga through the Vuoksi River.

Lasionycta phoca

Lasionycta phoca is a moth of the family Noctuidae. It occurs in eastern and central Canada with records from Labrador to the west coast of Hudson Bay.

Adults fly over tundra, are diurnal and nocturnal, and come to light.

Adults are on wing in June and July.

List of mammals of Norway

List of mammals with non-domesticated populations in Norway.


Pusa is a genus of the earless seals, within the family Phocidae. The three species of this genus were split from the genus Phoca, and some sources still give Phoca as an acceptable synonym for Pusa.

The three species in this genus are found in Arctic and subarctic regions, as well as around the Caspian Sea. This includes these countries and regions: Russia, Scandinavia, Britain, Greenland, Canada, the United States, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Japan. Due to changing local environmental conditions, the ringed seals found in the Canadian region has varied patterns of growth. The northern Canadian ringed seals grow slowly to a larger size, while the southern seals grow quickly to a smaller size.

Only the Caspian seal is endangered.


ROV PHOCA is a remotely operated underwater vehicle of the COMANCHE type. It was built by sub-Atlantic, Aberdeen, Scotland and is owned by the GEOMAR - Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel. Its smaller size compared to the ROV KIEL 6000 and therefore it's deploy ability from medium sized research vessels makes it a complement to the QUEST type ROV. It can dive up to 3000m (9842.52 feet) and was designed as a Work-Class- and Intervention-ROV. It is characterized by these features:

2 manipulators facilitate different sampling procedures

Digital video cameras on pan-&-tilt units are used as survey and mapping devices

It is fitted with the following auto-functions: depth, heading and altitude

The digital telemetry system SubCanTM provides real time data transmission

A payload of up to 100 kg allows the integration of different additional scientific equipment

ROV PHOCA is deployed in the so-called live-boating mode, i.e. it is directly connected to the respective vessel via a steel armoured optical fiber cableROV PHOCA's main employment will be the installation and maintenance of the deep sea observatory MoLab, but also within other multi-disciplinary projects such as projects by the Cluster of Excellence "The Future Ocean".

Ribbon seal

The ribbon seal (Histriophoca fasciata) is a medium-sized pinniped from the true seal family (Phocidae). A seasonally ice-bound species, it is found in the Arctic and Subarctic regions of the North Pacific Ocean, notably in the Bering Sea and Sea of Okhotsk. It is distinguished by its striking coloration, with two wide white strips and two white circles against dark brown or black fur.

It is the only living species in the genus Histriophoca, although a possible fossil species, H. alekseevi, has been described from the Miocene of Moldova.

Ringed seal

The ringed seal (Pusa hispida or Phoca hispida), also known as the jar seal, as netsik or nattiq by the Inuit and as Ньиэрпэ by the Yakut, is an earless seal (family: Phocidae) inhabiting the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. The ringed seal is a relatively small seal, rarely greater than 1.5 m in length, with a distinctive patterning of dark spots surrounded by light grey rings, hence its common name. It is the most abundant and wide-ranging ice seal in the Northern Hemisphere: ranging throughout the Arctic Ocean, into the Bering Sea and Okhotsk Sea as far south as the northern coast of Japan in the Pacific, and throughout the North Atlantic coasts of Greenland and Scandinavia as far south as Newfoundland, and include two freshwater subspecies in northern Europe. Ringed seals are one of the primary prey of polar bears and killer whales, and have long been a component of the diet of indigenous people of the Arctic.

Ross seal

The Ross seal (Ommatophoca rossii) is a true seal (family Phocidae) with a range confined entirely to the pack ice of Antarctica. It is the only species of the genus Ommatophoca. First described during the Ross expedition in 1841, it is the smallest, least abundant and least well known of the Antarctic pinnipeds. Its distinctive features include disproportionately large eyes, whence its scientific name (Ommato- meaning "eye", and phoca meaning "seal"), and complex, trilling and siren-like vocalizations. Ross seals are brachycephalic, as they have a short broad muzzle and have the shortest fur of any other seal.

Saimaa ringed seal

The Saimaa ringed seal (Pusa hispida saimensis, Finnish: Saimaannorppa) is a subspecies of ringed seal (Pusa hispida). They are among the most endangered seals in the world, having a total population of only about 390 individuals. The only existing population of these seals is found in Lake Saimaa, Finland (hence the name). They have lived in complete isolation from other ringed seal species for around 9,500 years and have diverged into a morphologically and ecologically different subspecies of ringed seal. The population is descended from ringed seals that were separated from the rest when the land rose after the last ice age. This seal, along with the Ladoga seal and the Baikal seal, is one of the few living freshwater seals.

Southern elephant seal

The southern elephant seal (Mirounga leonina) is one of the two species of elephant seals. It is the largest member of the clade Pinnipedia and the order Carnivora, as well as the largest extant marine mammal that is not a cetacean. It gets its name from its massive size and the large proboscis of the adult male, which is used to produce very loud roars, especially during the breeding season. A bull southern elephant seal is about 40% heavier than a male northern elephant seal (Mirounga angustirostris), more than twice as heavy as a male walrus (Odobenus rosmarus), and six to seven times heavier than the largest living terrestrial carnivorans, the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) and the Kodiak bear (Ursus arctos middendorffi).

Spotted seal

The spotted seal (Phoca largha), also known as the larga seal or largha seal, is a member of the family Phocidae, and is considered a "true seal". It inhabits ice floes and waters of the north Pacific Ocean and adjacent seas. It is primarily found along the continental shelf of the Beaufort, Chukchi, Bering and Okhotsk Seas and south to the northern Yellow Sea and it migrates south as far as northern Huanghai and the western Sea of Japan. It is also found in Alaska from the southeastern Bristol Bay to Demarcation Point during the ice-free seasons of summer and autumn when spotted seals mate and have pups. Smaller numbers are found in the Beaufort Sea. It is sometimes mistaken for the harbor seal to which it is closely related and spotted seals and harbor seals often mingle together in areas where their habitats overlap.The reduction in arctic ice floes due to global warming led to concerns that the spotted seal was threatened with extinction. Studies were conducted on its population numbers, with the conclusion, as of October 15, 2009, that the spotted seal population in Alaskan waters is not currently to be listed as endangered by NOAA.


The walrus (Odobenus rosmarus) is a large flippered marine mammal with a discontinuous distribution about the North Pole in the Arctic Ocean and subarctic seas of the Northern Hemisphere. The walrus is the only living species in the family Odobenidae and genus Odobenus. This species is subdivided into three subspecies: the Atlantic walrus (O. r. rosmarus) which lives in the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific walrus (O. r. divergens) which lives in the Pacific Ocean, and O. r. laptevi, which lives in the Laptev Sea of the Arctic Ocean.

Adult walrus are easily recognized by their prominent tusks, whiskers, and bulk. Adult males in the Pacific can weigh more than 2,000 kg (4,400 lb) and, among pinnipeds, are exceeded in size only by the two species of elephant seals. Walruses live mostly in shallow waters above the continental shelves, spending significant amounts of their lives on the sea ice looking for benthic bivalve mollusks to eat. Walruses are relatively long-lived, social animals, and they are considered to be a "keystone species" in the Arctic marine regions.

The walrus has played a prominent role in the cultures of many indigenous Arctic peoples, who have hunted the walrus for its meat, fat, skin, tusks, and bone. During the 19th century and the early 20th century, walruses were widely hunted and killed for their blubber, walrus ivory, and meat. The population of walruses dropped rapidly all around the Arctic region. Their population has rebounded somewhat since then, though the populations of Atlantic and Laptev walruses remain fragmented and at low levels compared with the time before human interference.

Extant Carnivora species

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