During the short time that the mother is giving birth and nursing her pup, several males will be in close proximity to her in order to obtain mating rights. At this time many males will aggressively threaten each other using their inflated nasal sac and even push each other out of the breeding area. Males do not typically defend personal territories; they only defend the area where there is a receptive female. A successful male will then mate with the female in the water. Once returning to land he will search for another female. Mating occurs typically through April and June.
Mating System: polygynous
Females reach the age of sexual maturity between 2 and 9 years old and it is estimated that most females give birth to their first young at around 5 years of age. Males reach sexual maturity a little later around 4 to 6 years old but often do not mate until much later. Females give birth to one young at a time through March and April. The gestation period is 240 to 250 days. During this time the fetus - unlike those of other seals - sheds its lanugo (a covering of fine soft hair that is replaced thicker pelage) in the uterus. These young are precocial and at birth are able to move about and swim with ease. They are independent and left to fend for themselves immediately after they have been weaned.
Breeding interval: Hooded seals breed once a year.
Breeding season: Hooded seals breed from April to June.
Range number of offspring: 1 to 1.
Range gestation period: 240 to 250 days.
Range birth mass: 10 to 30 kg.
Range weaning age: 5 to 12 days.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2 to 9 years.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 3.2 years.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 4 to 6 years.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); viviparous
Average number of offspring: 1.
Hooded seals have the shortest nursing period of any mammal, from 5 to 12 days. The milk of the female is rich in fat, which makes up about 60 to 70% of its content and allows the pup to double in size during its short nursing period. During this same period, the mother loses 7 to 10 kg each day. Females are protective of their pup during their short weaning interval. They fight potential predators, including other seals and humans. Males do not invest energy in defending their young. Since young are precocial at birth and already able to crawl and swim, little is done to help raise them.
Parental Investment: precocial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)
- 2001. "Seal Conservation Society" (On-line). Hooded Seal. Accessed December 01, 2009 at http://www.pinnipeds.org/species/hooded.htm.
- 2007. "Cystophora cristata, Hooded Seal" (On-line). MarineBio. Accessed November 29, 2009 at http://marinebio.org/species.asp?id=304.
- 2009. "Cystophora cristata" (On-line). IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version. Accessed November 20, 2009 at http://www.redlist.org/apps/redlist/details/6204/0.
- Kovacs, K., D. Lavigne. 1986. Cystophora cristata. Mammalian Species, 258: 1-9. Accessed November 29, 2009 at http://www.science.smith.edu/departments/Biology/VHAYSSEN/msi/default.html.