Seals are members of the “pinniped” family. Today, there are 33 species of pinnipeds in existence, and the fossils of over 50 extinct seal species have been discovered. Seals have a layer of fat, or blubber, that covers their bodies for warmth. All seals are covered in fur with the exception of walruses.
Seals primarily live in polar and subpolar areas, especially the North Atlantic, the North Pacific and the Southern Ocean. Some seals, such as monk seals, live in tropical and subtropical waters. Seals can be found in a variety of marine habitats, including the open ocean, coastal regions, brackish water and even some freshwater environments.
Seals eat a variety of things, including fish, crustaceans, cephalopods such as squid, zooplankton and sea birds.
Seals have a number of natural predators, including the Killer Whale, or Orca, and Great White Sharks. Polar bears also often prey on seals.
Seals have been hunted by man since the Stone Age for their meat/blubber and fur. Today, seals and other marine mammals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. However, there are still a variety of threats seals face. For example, many seals are caught in fishing nets and accidentally swallow fishing hooks. Marine debris can be a significant problem for seals because they become entangled in it, such as the seal pictured below that has microfilament fishing line wrapped around its head.