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Grey seal

1 Jan 2022
Grey seal (Ashley Bennison)

Grey seals Halichoerus grypus are fish-eating mammals that breed in remote offshore areas. In Ireland there are both grey and harbour (common) seals, each protected under EU and Irish law. 

It can be difficult to differentiate the two species; however, the primary distinguishing feature is the shape of the head. If the profile of the head is concave and short it is a harbour seal, but if long and elongated (as seen here) the seal is a grey. Seals are hugely culturally significant, with lore around shape-shifting seal folk or ‘selkie folk’ ever-present throughout Celtic and Norse mythology. A beautiful but haunting sound is that of the seals singing, particularly in rocky bays where the sounds echo around the cliffs. Indeed, scientists at St. Andrew’s University, Scotland, found that grey seals are ‘versatile vocal learners’, capable of copying melodies and mimicking vocal sounds.

UCC Natural Collections