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,[1] although a possible fossil species, H. alekseevi, has been described from the Miocene of Moldova.[2]

Ribbon seal[1]
Male Ribbon Sea Ozernoy Gulf Russia
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Clade: Pinnipedia
Family: Phocidae
Genus: Histriophoca
Gill, 1873
H. fasciata
Binomial name
Histriophoca fasciata
(Zimmermann, 1783)
Ribbon-seal-range a
Ribbon seal range (blue – summer, pink – maximal)


Ribbon seal pup on the ice
Ribbon seal pup on the ice

Adult seals are recognizable by their black skin, which carries four white markings: a strip around the neck, one around the tail and a circular marking on each body side,[4] which encloses the front fins. The contrast is particularly strong with the males, while with females the difference in color between bright and dark portions is often less conspicuous. Newborn ribbon seal pups have white natal fur. After moulting their natal fur, their color changes to blue-grey on their backs and silvery beneath. Over the course of three years, portions of the fur become darker and others brighter after every molt, and only at the age of four years does the striped pattern emerge.[5]

The ribbon seal has a short snout with broad, deep internal nares and large, rounded, front-facing orbits.[6] Like other phocids it possess enlarged auditory bullae and lacks a sagittal crest.[6] The ribbon seal has curved, widely spaced dentition and smaller canines than other species of phocid.[6]

The ribbon seal has a large inflatable air sac that is connected to the trachea and extends on the right side over the ribs. It is larger in males than in females, and it is thought that it is used to produce underwater vocalizations, perhaps for attracting a mate. Unlike other pinnipeds, the ribbon seal lack lobes in its lungs that divide the lungs into smaller compartments.[7] The ribbon seal can grow about 1.6 m (5.2 ft) long, weighing 95 kg (209 lb) in both sexes.

The main predators of ribbon seals include Great white sharks and Killer whales.[8]

Sexual dimorphism

Male ribbon seals are typically larger than females. This is particularly recognizable in their skull morphology because male nares openings are much larger than female nares openings.[6] Larger males are hypothesized to have a better chance of reproducing with multiple females. They have a higher fitness level and win in competition with other males over females.[9]


The ribbon seal lives in the Arctic parts of the Pacific Ocean. During winter and spring, it hauls out on pack ice to breed, molt, and give birth. During this time, it is found at the ice front in the Bering and Okhotsk Seas.[10] During the summer and autumn, the ribbon seal lives in open water, though some move north as the ice recedes with warmer temperatures. Little is known about its habit during this time, as it is so far from land and human observation. The ribbon seal almost never comes to land.

Thus far, there have been only three acknowledged instances where ribbon seals have been found as far south as Seattle, Long Beach, Washington and even further south at Morro Bay, California. There was nothing to suggest that illness was the cause of either seals appearance at either place, as they appeared to be healthy.[11][12]


Ribbon seals are rarely seen out on the ice and snow. Their method of movement on the ice is unusual and highly specialized. While quickly undulating their body in serpentine motion, they grip into the ice with their claws and use alternating flipper strokes to pull themselves across the ice's surface. It has been observed that this form of locomotion is rendered ineffective on other surfaces, most likely due to the increased friction between the animals fur and the substrate.[5]

While out on the ice, ribbon seals are noticeably indifferent to their surroundings. Humans in boats have been able to closely approach these seals before disturbing them. Mothers have been observed leaving pups by themselves for extended lengths of time. This would suggest that they experience little predation from land predators such as bears or humans, relative to other seals. When these seals are captured in nets, they are known to engage in feigning death behavior.[5]

Ribbon seal


The diet of ribbon seal consists almost exclusively of pelagic creatures: fish like pollocks, eelpouts, the Arctic Cod and cephalopods such as squid and octopus; young seals eat crustaceans as well. The ribbon seal dives to depths of up to 200 m in search of food; it is solitary and forms no herds.

Ribbon seals located in the Bering Sea consume fish otoliths, pollock, eelpout, and arctic cod.[13] Adult seals have relatively weak and smooth canines because their food does not need to be viciously torn.[14]


Ribbon seals have a polygynous mating system, where males mate with multiple females. Ribbon seals mate and give birth on pack ice rookeries, sea ice that is not connected to land. Males use vocalizations to defend breeding territories or to attract mates.[15] Males become sexually mature at three to six years old, females become sexually mature between two to five years old.[16] Breeding occurs once annually, and takes place usually in late May to June, corresponding to the loss of sea ice in spring.[16]

After mating, the embryo does not implant directly after fertilization, instead it has delayed implantation for approximately two to four months.[16] Delayed implantation allows the female to give birth when sea ice extent is greatest.[17] Pregnant females have a gestation of approximately ten to eleven months,[17] and give birth to one pup. Females care for their pup on pack ice for approximately four to six weeks.[17] The milk females provide their pup is high in proteins and lipids, which allows the pup to grow very quickly.[15] While lactating, a female ribbon seal will not forage for food, but must rely on fat stores in her body.[15][17] After weaning the pup the female will teach the pup how to dive to forage for prey.[15][17]

Seal pups are born with a white lanugo (fur coat) that is shed about a month after birth. These pups do not enter the water until their lanugo is completely gone because their layer of blubber, and protection from cold ocean temperatures, remains undeveloped until shedding. Young ribbon seals were over hunted because of their soft and dense fur coat, which caused the population to decline.[8]


Young ribbon seals look like young harp seals, and like these, they were hunted for their fur. Since they do not form herds, ribbon seals were more difficult to catch than harp seals. Since the Soviet Union limited the hunt on ribbon seals in 1969, their population has recovered. The current population is around 250,000.


In March 2008 the US government agreed to study Alaska's ribbon seal population and considered adding it to the endangered species list. However, in December 2008, the US government decided that sea ice critical to the seals' survival will not be endangered by global warming, and declined to list the species.[18][5] Instead, it became a U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service Species of Concern. The US Government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), has some concerns regarding status and threats of some species, for which insufficient information is available to list them under the US Endangered Species Act.

In the summer of 2009 the Center for Biological Diversity filed suit to get the decision changed. On July 10, 2013, after again reviewing the status of this species, the National Marine Fisheries Service found that listing under the ESA was not warranted.[19]


  1. ^ a b Wozencraft, W.C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Lowry, L. (2016). Histriophoca fasciata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T41670A45230946.en
  4. ^ Saundry, Peter (2010). Ribbon seal. Encyclopedia of Earth. C.Michael Hogan (Topic Editor). Cutler J. Cleveland, ed. National Council for Science and the Environment, Washington DC
  5. ^ a b c d Boveng, P.L. et al. (2008). Status Review of the Ribbon Seal (Histriophoca fasciata). Seattle, WA: U.S. Dept. of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Alaska Fisheries Science Center.
  6. ^ a b c d Burns, John J.; Fay, Francis H. (2010-05-06). "Comparative morphology of the skull of the Ribbon seal, Histriophoca fasciata, with remarks on systematics of Phocidae". Journal of Zoology. 161 (3): 363–394. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.1970.tb04519.x. ISSN 0952-8369.
  7. ^ "Histriophoca fasciata (ribbon seal)". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 2018-06-06.
  8. ^ a b Burns, John J. (1970). "Remarks on the Distribution and Natural History of Pagophilic Pinnipeds in the Bering and Chukchi Seas". Journal of Mammalogy. 51 (3): 445–454. doi:10.2307/1378386. JSTOR 1378386.
  9. ^ Shine, Richard (December 1989). "Ecological Causes for the Evolution of Sexual Dimorphism: A Review of the Evidence". The Quarterly Review of Biology. 64 (4): 419–461. doi:10.1086/416458. ISSN 0033-5770.
  10. ^ SCS: Ribbon Seal (Phoca fasciata). pinnipeds.org
  11. ^ Rare sea creature appears on Seattle woman's dock. LiveScience via Yahoo News (January 21, 2012)
  12. ^ "Rare Arctic ribbon seal observed near Surfside". Chinook Observer. August 18, 2016.
  13. ^ Frost, Kathryn J.; Lowry, Lloyd F. (September 1980). "Feeding of ribbon seals (Phoca fasciata) in the Bering Sea in spring". Canadian Journal of Zoology. 58 (9): 1601–1607. doi:10.1139/z80-219. ISSN 0008-4301.
  14. ^ SCHEFFER, VICTOR B. (2009-08-20). "DENTITION OF THE RIBBON SEAL". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. 135 (4): 579–585. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.1960.tb05867.x. ISSN 0370-2774.
  15. ^ a b c d Macdonald, D (2006). The Princeton Encyclopedia of Mammals. 1. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. pp. 520–544.
  16. ^ a b c Atkinson, S. (1997). "Reproductive biology of seals" (PDF). Reviews of Reproduction. 2 (3): 175–194. doi:10.1530/ror.0.0020175. ISSN 1359-6004. PMID 9414481.
  17. ^ a b c d e Fedoseev, G (2002). Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals. Vol. 1 (1 ed.). San Diego, CA: Academic Press. pp. 1027–1033.
  18. ^ Govt: Ribbon seals not endangered. Associated Press. 23 December 2008
  19. ^ NMFS (July 10, 2013). "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; Determination on Whether To List the Ribbon Seal as a Threatened or Endangered Species" (PDF). Federal Register. 78: 41371–41384.

External links

Asiatic linsang

The Asiatic linsang (Prionodon) is a genus comprising two species native to Southeast Asia: the banded linsang (Prionodon linsang) and the spotted linsang (Prionodon pardicolor). Prionodon is considered a sister taxon of the Felidae.


Catopuma is a genus containing two Asian small wild cat species, the bay cat (C. badia) and the Asian golden cat (C. temminckii).

Both are typically reddish brown in colour, with darker markings on the head. They inhabit forested environments in Southeast Asia. The bay cat is restricted to the island of Borneo. Originally thought to be two subspecies of the same animal, recent genetic analysis has confirmed they are, indeed, separate species.The two species diverged from one another 4.9-5.3 million years ago, long before Borneo separated from the neighboring islands. Their closest living relative is the marbled cat, from which the common ancestor of the genus Catopuma diverged around 9.4 million years ago.

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.


Ferret-badgers are the five species of the genus Melogale, which is the only genus of the monotypic mustelid subfamily Helictidinae.

Bornean ferret-badger (Melogale everetti)

Chinese ferret-badger (Melogale moschata)

Javan ferret-badger (Melogale orientalis)

Burmese ferret-badger (Melogale personata)

Vietnam ferret-badger (Melogale cucphuongensis)


Galerella is a genus of the mongoose family (Herpestidae) native to Africa and commonly called the slender mongooses.There are four or five species in this genus, with more than 30 subspecies.

Four of the species have long been established:

A recent addition is the black mongoose, Galerella nigrata, which now is considered a separate species by many scientists, following genetic analysis. It was previously seen as a variant of Galerella sanguinea.

Ice seal

Ice seal, or (in the Southern Hemisphere) pack-ice seal is a general term applied to any one of a number of pinniped species of the family Phocidae whose life cycle is completed largely on or about the sea ice of the Earth's polar regions.

The following are widely considered pagophilic or "ice-loving" species:[1][2]

Subfamily Monachinae

Ross seal

Crabeater seal

Leopard seal

Weddell sealSubfamily Phocinae

Bearded seal

Hooded seal

Harp seal

Ringed seal

Ribbon seal

Spotted seal or larga seal

List of Arctic pinnipeds

This is a list of Arctic pinnipeds:

Phocidae (ᓇᑦᓯᖅ, natsiq)Bearded seal (ᐅᒡᔪᒃ, ᐅᒥᒃᑑᖅ, ugjuk) Erignathus barbatus

Hooded seal (ᓇᑦᓯᕙᒃ, natsivak) Cystophora cristata

Harbor seal (ᖃᓯᒋᐊᖅ, qasigiaq) Phoca vitulina

Harp seal (ᖃᐃᕈᓕᒃ, qairulik) Pagophilus groenlandicus

Grey seal (ᐳᕕᓲᖅ, puvisuuq) Halichoerus grypus

Ringed seal (ᓇᑦᑎᖅ, nattiq) Pusa hispida

Northern elephant seal Mirounga angustirostris

Ribbon seal (Histriophoca fasciata)

Spotted seal (Phoca largha, Phoca vitulina largha)


Northern fur seal (Callorhinus ursinus)

OdobenidaeWalrus (ᐊᐃᕕᖅ, aiviq) Odobenus rosmarus


Lutrogale is a genus of otters, with only one extant species—the smooth-coated otter.

Mephitis (genus)

The genus Mephitis is one of several genera of skunks, which has two species and a North American distribution.


Mustelinae is a subfamily of family Mustelidae, which includes weasels, ferrets amd minks.It was formerly defined in a paraphyletic manner to also include wolverines, martens, and many other mustelids, to the exclusion of the otters (Lutrinae).


Nyctereutes is an Old World genus of the family Canidae, consisting of just one living species, the raccoon dog of East Asia. Nyctereutes appeared about 9.0 million years ago (Mya), with all but one species becoming extinct before the Pleistocene.

Native to East Asia, the raccoon dog has been intensively bred for fur in Europe and especially in Russia during the twentieth century. Specimens have escaped or have been introduced to increase production and formed populations in Eastern Europe. It is currently expanding rapidly in the rest of Europe, where its presence is undesirable because it is considered to be a harmful and invasive species.


Paradoxurus is a genus within the viverrid family that was denominated and first described by Frédéric Cuvier in 1822. As of 2005, this genus was defined as comprising three species native to Southeast Asia:

the Asian palm civet (P. hermaphroditus)

the golden palm civet (P. zeylonensis)

the brown palm civet (P. jerdoni)In 2009, it was proposed to also include the golden wet-zone palm civet (P. aureus), the Sri Lankan brown palm civet (P. montanus) and the golden dry-zone palm civet (P. stenocephalus), which are endemic to Sri Lanka.


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.


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.

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.


Speothos is a genus of canid found in Central and South America. The genus includes the living bush dog, Speothos venaticus, and an extinct Pleistocene species, Speothos pacivorus. Unusually, the fossil species was identified and named before the extant species was discovered, with the result that the type species of Speothos is S. pacivorus.

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.

West African oyan

The West African oyan (Poiana leightoni), also known as the West African linsang, is a linsang species native to the Upper Guinean forests in West Africa.

It is one of the least known small carnivores in Africa.

Extant Carnivora species

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.