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Bearded Seal

Erignathus barbatus

Bearded seals, named for their distinctive long and bristly whiskers, are relatively large pinnipeds. They can grow up to 7.5 feet (about 2.3 meters) in length and weigh between 575 to 800 pounds (approximately 260 to 363 kilograms). 

Their bodies are robust and they have a square-shaped, protruding snout. The color of their coat can vary, but it is generally grey to brown, with lighter and darker spots that help them blend into the icy environments.

Bearded seals are found in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, inhabiting the cold waters of the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort seas. They are also commonly seen along the Arctic coasts of Russia and Canada. 

These seals prefer areas with pack ice, where they can haul out to rest and give birth. However, they are adaptable and can also be found in open waters away from the ice, particularly during seasons when sea ice recedes.

The diet of bearded seals primarily consists of bottom-dwelling creatures. They use their sensitive whiskers to detect prey such as clams, squid, and a variety of fish species. 

Their ability to dive deeply (up to 300 meters or about 984 feet) and stay underwater for up to 30 minutes helps them reach the seabed where most of their prey is located.

Bearded seals are generally solitary outside of the breeding season. Known for their vocalizations, males sing complex songs during mating season to attract females and deter rivals, which can be heard over long distances underwater. 

They are not typically aggressive towards humans but can defend themselves vigorously if threatened. An interesting behavior is their use of air sacs in their necks, which they inflate to help them stay buoyant and vocalize.

The scientific name for the bearded seal is Erignathus barbatus. They belong to the family Phocidae, which includes all true seals. 

As for their conservation status, bearded seals are currently classified as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), but they are vulnerable to changes in their environment, particularly the loss of sea ice due to climate change.
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