MarLIN

information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

Grey seal (Halichoerus grypus)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.

Summary

Description

The grey seal is a medium sized, robust bodied, seal with a rectangular horse-like head and small widely separated eyes. The nostrils form a W-pattern due to them being parallel and wide apart. They have a long muzzle, wide at the end, with a fleshy area around the whiskers that obscures the lower jaw. In adult males the top of the muzzle is convex, whereas in adult females and pups it is flat. Adults can grow up to 2.3 m long, with newborn pups being ca 1 m long. Adult males are much bigger and heavier than females, have a bigger broader head and are also darker in colour. The coat is dark grey on the back and light grey underneath and has irregular pattern of spots or blotches.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

The north east Atlantic population is concentrated around the British Isles, especially Scotland.

Global distribution

There are three populations; one in the Baltic Sea, one in the north east Atlantic around the British Isles, and one in the north west Atlantic around Nova Scotia and the Gulf of St Lawrence.

Habitat

Halichoerus grypus feeds in inshore benthic habitats, on a wide variety of fishes and invertebrates. Grey seals use remote islands, bays and caves as 'haul out' areas to give birth to their pups or between foraging trips for food. The main breeding sites are shown on the above map.

Depth range

-

Identifying features

  • Rectangular horse-like head.
  • Widely separated nostrils, almost parallel forming W-pattern.
  • Short and wide foreflippers.
  • Small eyes relative to head size.
  • Long distinctive muzzle, wide at the end.
  • Top of muzzle is convex in adult males.

Additional information

Can be confused with other smaller seals, but Halichoerus grypus has a characteristic head shape which makes them relatively easy to identify.

The grey seal is listed in Annex II of the EC Habtats Directive. The Baltic Sea population of grey seal is listed under Appendix II of the Bonn Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals. The grey seal population of the British Isles represents about 38% of the world population, of which ca 90% breed in Scotland (Duck, 2002).

Listed by

Further information sources

Search on:

Bibliography

  1. Duck, C., 2002. Pup production in the British Grey seal population. http://smub.st-and.ac.uk/CurrentResearch.htm/scos.htm, 2003-10-07

  2. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  3. Jefferson, T.A., Leatherwood, S. & Webber, M.A., 1994. FAO species identification guide. Marine mammals of the world. Rome: United Nations Environment Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

  4. JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee), 1999. Marine Environment Resource Mapping And Information Database (MERMAID): Marine Nature Conservation Review Survey Database. [on-line] http://www.jncc.gov.uk/mermaid

  5. Kinze, C. C., 2002. Photographic Guide to the Marine Mammals of the North Atlantic. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Datasets

  1. Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre, 2017. BRERC species records recorded over 15 years ago. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/h1ln5p accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-25.

  2. Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre, 2017. BRERC species records within last 15 years. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/vntgox accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-25.

  3. British Trust for Ornithology, 2018. Non-avian taxa (BTO+partners). Occurrence dataset: https://www.bto.org/ accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-25.

  4. Centre for Environmental Data and Recording, 2018. Ulster Museum Marine Surveys of Northern Ireland Coastal Waters. Occurrence dataset https://www.nmni.com/CEDaR/CEDaR-Centre-for-Environmental-Data-and-Recording.aspx accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-25.

  5. Cofnod – North Wales Environmental Information Service, 2018. Miscellaneous records held on the Cofnod database. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/hcgqsi accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-25.

  6. Dumfries and Galloway Environmental Resources Centre, 2017. Mammal records for Dumfries and Galloway. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/oirkpx accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-27

  7. Environmental Records Information Centre North East, 2018. ERIC NE Combined dataset to 2017. Occurrence dataset: http://www.ericnortheast.org.uk/home.html accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-38

  8. Fife Nature Records Centre, 2018. Fife Nature Records Centre combined dataset. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/ccc1ip accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-27.

  9. Fife Nature Records Centre, 2018. St Andrews BioBlitz 2014. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/erweal accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-27.

  10. Glasgow Museums BRC, 2017. Mammal records for Clyde Faunal Area, 1850 to 2007. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/fphygc accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-27.

  11. Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, 2018. Visual sightings data set 2003-2017. Occurrence dataset: https://hwdt.org/ accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-27.

  12. Isle of Wight Local Records Centre, 2017. Isle of Wight Notable Species. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/sm4ety accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-27.

  13. Kent Wildlife Trust, 2018. Kent Wildlife Trust Shoresearch Intertidal Survey 2004 onwards. Occurrence dataset: https://www.kentwildlifetrust.org.uk/ accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-10-01.

  14. Lancashire Environment Record Network, 2018. LERN Records. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/esxc9a accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  15. Manx Biological Recording Partnership, 2017. Isle of Man wildlife records from 01/01/2000 to 13/02/2017. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/mopwow accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  16. Manx Biological Recording Partnership, 2018. Isle of Man historical wildlife records 1990 to 1994. Occurrence dataset:https://doi.org/10.15468/aru16v accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  17. Manx Biological Recording Partnership, 2018. Isle of Man historical wildlife records 1995 to 1999. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/lo2tge accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  18. Merseyside BioBank., 2017. Merseyside BioBank (verified). Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/ar0p6s accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  19. Merseyside BioBank., 2018. Merseyside BioBank (unverified). Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/iou2ld accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  20. National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas website. Available from: https://www.nbnatlas.org.

  21. National Trust, 2017. National Trust Species Records. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/opc6g1 accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  22. Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service, 2017. NBIS Records to December 2016. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/jca5lo accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  23. North East Scotland Biological Records Centre, 2017. NE Scotland marine mammal records 1800-2010. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/suphju accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  24. North East Scotland Biological Records Centre, 2017. North East Scotland Terrestrial Mammals 1900-2017 (excluding squirrels, wild cats and marine mammals). Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/qt0mly accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  25. OBIS,  2018. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. www.iobis.org. Accessed: 2018-11-21

  26. Outer Hebrides Biological Recording, 2018. Vertebrates (except birds, INNS and restricted records), Outer Hebrides. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/dax3tf accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  27. Record, 2017. RECORD Mammal Data. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/alecvo accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

  28. South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre, 2018. SEWBReC Mammals (South East Wales). Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/atlxpp accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

  29. South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre, 2018. Dr Mary Gillham Archive Project. Occurance dataset: http://www.sewbrec.org.uk/ accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-10-02

  30. Suffolk Biodiversity Information Service., 2017. Suffolk Biodiversity Information Service (SBIS) Dataset. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/ab4vwo accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

  31. The Mammal Society, 2018. Derek Crawley Images. Occurance dataset: http://www.mammal.org.uk/ accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-10-02.

  32. The Mammal Society., 2017. National Mammal Atlas Project, online recording. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/i2eosa accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

  33. The Wildlife Information Centre, 2017. Ron McBeath records (2010 - 2014). Occurrence dataset http://www.wildlifeinformation.co.uk/. Accessed via NBNAtlas.org/ on 2018-10-02.

  34. The Wildlife Information Centre, 2018. TWIC Biodiversity Field Trip Data (1995-present). Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/ljc0ke accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

  35. West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre, 2018. Mammal Records (West Wales). Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/vitiic accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

  36. West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre, 2018. Seatrust Cetacean Records West Wales. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/ecsmqh accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

  37. Whale and Dolphin Conservation, 2018. WDC Shorewatch Sightings. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/9vuieb accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

  38. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, 2018. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust - Non-sensitive records from all taxonomic groups. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/2razk5 accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

Citation

This review can be cited as:

Edwards, R.V. 2008. Halichoerus grypus Grey seal. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 21-11-2018]. Available from: https://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/detail/1995

Last Updated: 08/05/2008