I've been doing a lot of research for my selkie characters and I really wanted to incorporate seal behavior into their society. (Selkies are mythical creatures that are mostly seals but they are able to take off their seal skin and turn into a human.) My research on selkie myths mostly came up with similar stories such as "selkie female has her seal skin stolen by a human man and is forced to marry him until years later she finds her skin and returns to the ocean". So I am trying to use seal information to fill in the blanks.

I am going to base them off of harbor seals because I couldn't find any information about which specific seal they can turn into and a harbor seal would be best for my story. Does anyone have any info about general harbor seal behavior, such as personalities or family group structure? Also any ideas about how to incorporate them into a human-like culture. In the story my selkie character is separated from her community and has to live with humans so any ideas about difference in culture and culture shock would be great too. For example I've read that seals only see in black and white so maybe she is very confused with humans' use of color in pretty much everything and doesn't understand the difference between the traffic light colors. Any info or ideas will help!

P.S. I'm new to this site and forums in general so I'm sorry if I did anything wrong :)

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure if this is on topic... I'm also not sure it isn't... but given this is almost a pure "real life science" question, I wonder if you might get better answers at biology.SE. (Note: if you try there, I'd leave out mentions of selkies...) $\endgroup$
    – Matthew
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 16:22
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    $\begingroup$ "Seals only see in black and white": that maybe true, but once she transforms into a woman she would see all the colors women can see (including the myriad nuances which men cannot distinguish). That's what "transforming into" means. As for books, I have found The natural history and behavior of the California sea lion by Richard Peterson et al., 1967, complete with behavior, mannerisms, social life etc. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 20:52
  • $\begingroup$ There is a wonderful science fiction book by Anne McAffrey called The Powers That Be which has selkie characters in it. You can call it research but it is also a very enjoyable story and the beginning of a great scifi series. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 21:38
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP For my selkies I wanted them to be a mix of human and seal in both forms. For example they when they're a seal they still have some human characteristics like intelligence and human personality. When they are in human form I still want them to retain a few seal-like characteristics and possibly biology, such as being able to hold their breath longer then the average person. Also Thanks for the link studying other Pinnipeds will be helpful! $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 6, 2020 at 17:45
  • $\begingroup$ You probably want to try the mythology stack exchange. Just be sure to show you researched some before, because they expect you to do your homework first. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Commented Oct 12, 2020 at 1:17

1 Answer 1


Characteristics of harbor seals, that could easy be adapted into human behavior:

  • they eat a lots of fish (grown ups eat only fish, young ones eat other sea animals like crabs too)

  • they do not like company, they only meet each other on the basking area and for mating

  • they do not like to being touched by other harbor seals (for example to sun bath: there are a lots of them, but all with 1,5m distance)

  • mating is rough, a group of male chase the female in the water and bite it, until one of them could get hold of her neck and fulfill the task

  • pregnancy lasts 11 month, the child would be around 10kg, 85cm and could swim from the beginning, after lactation for around 5 month it will be left alone

  • they obviously are great swimmer, could hold their breath around 30min and could stay some days at sea

  • but they like to return to familiar sand bank or protected rock coast to rest

  • they travel upstream into fresh water rivers (maybe for hunting)

  • they become in nature around 20-35 years old

  • between stone age and 11th century, the harbor seal was hunted by coast people for food

  • at the 19th century it was hunted as rival by fisherman

  • 1988 the harbor seals in northern sea were challenged by an epidemic illness "PDV" which is a sort of the canine distemper

  • when they rest and relax, they lay on the belly and head and tail is stretched into the air

In my mind this would be an interesting character... get vaccinated against a dogs disease, is not used with body contact (and is surprised/conflicted with the amount of contact in the human world), has a weakness for fish, maybe most for raw sushi, has to survive alone since she is 5 month old, uses "water marks" instead of land marks, like rivers instead of highways, and has a resentment against "typical" fisherman/seal hunters like a generation memory.

(Source: german and english wikipedia about harbor seals/Seehunde)


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