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The smallest of all living seal species, growing to a maximum length of just over 1.5 metres, the ringed seal (Pusa hispida) is named for the conspicuous ring-shaped markings on its coat. Dark grey spots are encircled by light greyish-white or silver rings, which are most obvious on the back and sides and often so dense that the marks fuse. The coat is variable in colour, but it is usually dark grey on the upperparts and light grey to silver on the underparts. The ringed seal is notably plump with a small, rounded head and a short, thick neck. The broad, blunt muzzle and large, close-set, forward-facing eyes impart an almost cat-like appearance. The fore-flippers are relatively small and slightly pointed, bearing claws more than one inch thick that are used to maintain breathing holes through thick ice. The vibrissae (whiskers) are light-coloured and beaded. The male ringed seal tends to be slightly larger than the female. The ringed seal pup is born with woolly, thick, whitish fur known as ‘lanugo’. As the pup grows, the fur becomes finer and slightly longer than that of the adult, and is dark grey on the upperparts, fading to silver on the underparts. At this stage the pups are known as ‘silver jars’. The pup may also have a scattering of dark spots on the underparts and a few rings on the back.

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