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Hooded seals (Cystophora cristata) rarely approach land, preferring to spend their whole lives among the ice floes in the cold Arctic Ocean. Apart from during the breeding season, hooded seals live alone. They dive down to depths of more than 180m to catch shoaling fish and bottom-living creatures.

When the breeding season arrives in spring, the seals congregate on wide ice floes. The females take up widely spaced positions on the ice, preparing to give birth to the young conceived the year before. Meanwhile, males compete for access to small groups of females. The victors stay near the females as they nurse their newborn calves, chasing away any intruders while inflating their nasal balloons.

Hooded seal pups are suckled for only four days - the shortest time of any mammal - after which the mothers abandon them.

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ARKive photos and videos of the hooded seal