Researchers have discovered a new fact about hooded seals, a mysterious
200 to 400 kilogram mammal that spends all but a few days each year in
An international team of researchers led by Dr. David
Coltman, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Alberta, have
learned that all the hooded seal populations in the world share the
same genetic diversity. The researchers reached their conclusions after
analysis of more than 20 years of DNA samples taken from hundreds of
hooded seals from around the world.
"These results mean that if you brought me a DNA sample of a hooded
seal, I wouldn't be able to tell you where in the world you got that
sample because of the genetic similarity between populations," Coltman
"This is important information because it helps shed light on an animal that we know very little about," he added.
hooded seals give birth (whelp) and wean their pups on ice floes over a
period of three to four days once every year in the spring. Male seals
wait until the females finish weaning for the one time of year when
they will mate. The researchers believe the genetic similarities among
the seals indicate these seals intermingle and mate among populations.
The research is published this month in the journal Molecular Ecology.
are four places in the world where hooded seals go to whelp: Davis
Straight in northern Canada, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the eastern
coast off of Greenland, and the coast off of Labrador. Ninety per cent
of the estimated 600,000 hooded seals in the world whelp off the coast
Hooded seals are often harvested—especially
juveniles—for their meat, blubber and light blue coats. Hooded seals
are slightly larger than their cousins, harp seals, which are more
famously harvested and often amidst controversy. Much less is known
about the behavior of hooded seals compared to what is known about harp
seals, which is a much more social breed of seal.
bit of information we can learn about hooded seals is really
beneficial," Coltman said. "And now that we know hooded seals are
panmictic, that is, that they interbreed worldwide, it can help us
shape the way that we try to preserve and manage them."
University of Alberta. May 10, 2007.