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  • Writer's pictureKa Hana Pono

Hawaiian Monk Seals

This week we’re learning all about Seals, especially the Hawaiian Monk Seals.  The keikis have been sharing stories about monk seals they’ve seen here on the north shore.

True seals like the Hawaiian Monk Seal have no protruding ears. Their hind flippers help them in the water, but only drag behind them when on land. 

They cannot lift themselves up on their foreflippers. The foreflippers are used for steering as they move their hind sections sideways to propel through the water. 

They are able to hear quite well, whether or not they have ears. Underwater, their hearing is amplified. It is believed that they use a form of sonar to help them locate food.

Whiskers are often used like radar to help locate food, as well. They can sense a shift in the water, thus giving them a clue as to the direction in which to swim for it.

Eyes do not see in color, but they are sensitive to aquatic colors.

Noses automatically close as soon as they go underwater. They open again when the seal surfaces. 

Babies can stay underwater for about fifteen minutes and adults can stay under for thirty. They also sleep underwater, able to surface for breathing without waking up.

They can weigh from one to three tons and can be up to ten to twenty feet in length.

Mothers and pups rely on their sense of smell to identify each other.

They like to feed on other animals found in the water, such as fish, krill, and squid. They may also feed on microplankton and plankton.

The Ringed seal is the smallest. The Southern elephant seal is the largest. 

Other true seals are Hooded, Bearded, Gray, Ribbon, Leopard, Weddell, Crabeater, Monk, Ross, Harp, Spotted, Harbor, Caspian, Ringed, and Baikal.

Walruses are seals found in the Arctic. They have long tusks, which are actually their canine teeth. They also have beards and significantly less body hair.

Their scientific name is “pinnipeds” which means “feather-foot.” This comes from the Latin “pinna” which means “feather or wing” and “pedis” which means “foot.”

Books we are reading:

Hewitt, Joan. A Harbor Seal Grows Up. – Follow the life cycle of a seal from birth through adulthood.

Hoff, Syd. Sammy the Seal – This is a fictional series about a seal who escapes from the zoo. They are fun to read aloud.

Lang, Aubrey. Baby Seal – This book also uses great photographs and simple text for young children about the seal’s life cycle.

Kalman, Bobbie. Seals and Sea Lions (The Living Ocean).  This book is geared toward older children but is full of useful information and has great pictures. Adapt the text as necessary for sharing seal facts for preschoolers.

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