Brace yourself for the squishy-face cuteness.
BAM. The Ringed Seal (Pusa hispida) is the smallest and most abundant seal in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, including the Arctic Ocean, the Okhotsk Sea, and the Bering Sea. They can be found as far south as Newfoundland and the northern coast of Japan. The Ringed Seal's common name refers to the pattern of its coat, and the Inuit call them nattiq and netsik. They are also known as the jar seal. The Ringed Seal has been a staple of both the indigenous people of the region and polar bears.
Ringed Seals have a very plump appearance with a short neck and round face. There is not very significant sexual dimorphism between adult males and females, except that males are slightly larger on average. They can grow up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) in body length, and weigh about 308 pounds (70 kg). The front flippers of Ringed Seals have short, thick claws that allow them to dig and maintain breathing holes through up to 6.5 feet (2 meters) of pack ice.
The diet of Ringed Seals consists largely of small marine life found in the Arctic, like cod, shrimp, herring, crustaceans, perch, whitefish, smelt, mysids, and sculpin. They will typically dive to depths of 150 feet (45 meters) to find prey. Ringed Seals are themselves preyed upon by polar bears, walruses, orcas, and Greenland sharks, while the pups can be taken by Arctic Foxes and gulls.
Pupping and breeding season for Ringed Seals takes place between March and May, with most pups being born around the beginning of April. Females will use their front flippers to excavate birthing dens in the ice, which helps to protect the newborn pups from both the cold and predators. In fact, females dig four to six dens and move their offspring from den to den on a regular basis, to throw off nosy foxes and bears. The pups will nurse for about six weeks, but Ringed Seal pups learn to dive early and will soon start accompanying their mothers on feeding dives. They are fully weaned before the ice starts to break up in early June.
Because of their healthy populations, Ringed Seals are considered to be a species of least concern by the IUCN. Subsistence hunting by indigenous people occurs at unknown rates, but Ringed Seals are hunted commercially as well, though commercial hunting has lessened after there were region-specific declines in population during the 20th century. The greatest threats to Ringed Seals are climate change, which threatens their pack ice existence, and pollution.
Source for all images used in this post.