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How Do Adult Harp Seals Give Birth?

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Before each adorable baby harp seal makes his debut into the world, his father battles it out with other harp seals to see who can mate with the female. Harp seals mate each year and give birth to their snowy white bundles of joy. They call the North Atlantic and Arctic Ocean home. With their sleek bodies built for swimming, they relish their time in the water, but will give birth on land.

The Harsh Mating Season

Harps seal migrate each year to mate. According to National Geographic, both male and female harp seals will make their way to the Greenland Sea, the White Sea and Newfoundland to carry out their breeding rituals. The battles between males to gain the right to mate with a female can get quite nasty and involve their strong teeth and smacks with their flippers. Breeding usually occurs in February and March. Harp seals gather in the thousands during this time period. They will stay together to feed and make their way through the ocean waters.

Delayed Implantation

Once mating takes place, female harp seals go through a process known as delayed implantation. During this stage, the embryo will not attach to her uterine wall for around three months. This is Mother Nature's own way of allowing the development of the embryo to be delayed until pack ice is available because harp seals give birth in groups -- that's a lot of harps seals gathered on the ice all at once. Gestation lasts, in total, for approximately 11 months.

Birth on Land, ID by Scent

When it's time to give birth, female harp seals will make their way to the ice. They generally do this in the southern regions of their home range. With thousands of other seals on the ice, female harp seals are able to spot their very own pup based on their distinctive scent.

Nursing and Weaning

Harp seal pups are noted for their beautiful white coats, making them the subject of seal hunts that have caused uproars among environmentalists. They are born weighing in around 25 pounds at 3 feet long. For the first 12 days of their lives, they will nurse from their mothers. The milk is very high in fat and helps the seal pups gain 5 pounds each day and accumulate thick, protective blubber. Once her bundle of joy reaches around 80 pounds, Mama harp seal will leave and go off to mate once again, leaving the young harp seal to fend for himself.