Serenada rarely commented on the animal posts that I do, but I know she was really intrigued by my post about the Spotted Hyena. I'm still trying to come to terms with her passing, but this Pinnipednesday is for her.
The Spotted Seal (Phoca largha) was considered to be a subspecies of the Harbor Seal for a long time, and indeed it is often mistaken for the Harbor Seal. It's sometimes hard to distinguish them, especially because they will congregate on the same beaches in their overlapping territories. Spotted Seals are also known as Largha Seals, and can be found in the northern Pacific Ocean. The word "largha" is the term used by the Tungusic peoples to refer to this seal.
Spotted Seals are medium-sized pinnipeds, and there is little sexual dimorphism present between adult males and females. Adults grow to a length of almost 7 feet (2.1 meters), and weigh up to 240 pounds (109 kg). They vary in coat color from light to dark gray and even brown, with darker spots distributed randomly over their bodies. The whole species is split between three large populations in the Gulf of Anadyr/Bering Sea, Peter the Great Bay/Liaodong Bay, and the Sea of Okhotsk/Sea of Japan.
The diet of the Spotted Seal is quite similar to that of the Harbor Seal, and includes a variety of marine life such as squid, octopus, fish, and crustaceans. Though they are hard to tell apart from Harbor Seals by sight, Spotted Seals have some behavioral differences that make it easier. There is less aggressive behavior observed between adult males and females, and it is thought that they might form monogamous pairs, which is unique among pinnipeds.
Pupping season for Spotted Seals usually occurs between January and the end of March, with females giving birth to a single pup conceived during the breeding season of the previous year. They will mate again after they've given birth, and the males will actually haul out on the ice to be with the female about 10 days before she gives birth. He stays for a while with her and her pup, and will act aggressively toward other animals in order to protect them. Pups are fully weaned at about six weeks, after which they can already dive to depths of up to 262 feet (80 meters).
While Spotted Seals are sometimes hunted, the greater threat to their overall population is commercial fishing. The seals are forced to compete with humans for the fish that they typically hunt, and they can also become tangled in the fishing equipment used by commercial fishers. They are also at risk due to climate change, as they depend on the pack ice for giving birth and climate conditions affect the availability of prey.