Harbor Seal: Phoca vitulina

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Mistaken for a Sea Otter? You Otter Be Sorry!

On October 23, 1805 Lewis and Clark observed the first harbor seal. At first sight, Clark confused the harbor seal for a sea otter. He later corrected himself in his journals, recognizing the two species as distinct from one another. Although the sea otter and harbor seal share similar characteristics, the harbor seal has evolved and adapted to become its own unique species (National Geographic, 1996).

This website will focus on the holistic understanding of Phoca vitulina as a species. Links are provided at the top and bottom to navigate throughout the pages. Any questions or comments should be directed towards Daniel Nash and Alyssa Dorosz by visiting the Contact Us page. All photos are used with copyright permissions.


Did You Know?...

Newborn harbor seals depend on their mothers almost entirely throughout the first four weeks. If the pups are separated from their mothers during this time, there is virtually no chance of survival (Mammal Marine Center, 2013).

Since harbor seals are members of the "true family" of seals, they lack ear flaps. Instead, they have ear openings on the sides of their heads that close when diving and re-open when surfacing (SeaWorld, 2005).

Dominance in seals is determined by sex and size. Larger male harbor seals are more successful when competing for the driest and warmest spot of land (Denver Zoological Foundation, 2000).

Harbor seals engage in a behavior called "porpoising," or the ability to leap completely out of the water (Denver Zoological Foundation, 2000).

Each whisker on the head of a harbor seal can move independently (SeaWorld, 2005).

The core temperature of a harbor seal averages at about 100 degrees Celcius (SeaWorld, 2005).

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