Meet the ribbon seal (Histriophoca fasciata), the most striking and handsome of all the world’s pinnipeds, found in the icy waters off the southern coast of Russia and to the north of Korea and Japan.
Like many seals, the ribbon seal (Histriophoca fasciata) has dark brown to black fur. Yet what makes it standout is its remarkable and conspicuous coloration. It has two white stripes and two circles which pattern its body in a particularly striking way. Its genus – Histriophoca – has a single member: you’re looking at it. The ribbon seal is one of a kind.
The ribbon seals are elusive, though, and almost never come to land, and live so far out in the open water that we actually don’t know much about their habits, because they’re simply too far away.
When they are born, ribbon seals are white – this is their natal fur and will moult as they grow. They are inconspicuous for four years, with grey fur on their backs and silver on their bellies. Then something remarkable happens. Some portions of their fur become much darker and other parts significantly brighter. This difference is more noticeable in the male. It is thought that the stripes indicate that the individual has reached sexual maturity and is ready to find a mate.
Many people have never even seen a ribbon seal before, and the last known sighting of one was back in 2o12.
But one of these seals made an appearance in August, appearing on Long Beach Peninsula in Washington State, which is very far south for these seals. The seal appeared to be in good condition, maybe just a little lost, and it soon blobbed off back into the water — but not before it let people get a photo!