A seal inflates its nose like a balloon during a mating ritual in the Arctic

  • A rare video shows the mating ritual of hooded seals in the Arctic Ocean.
  • These seals can inflate a balloon-sized nasal cavity to attract females and scare off rivals.
  • The scene is from the BBC series “Frozen Planet II” narrated by David Attenborough.

A rare video shows hooded seals competing with a female by inflating balloon-sized cavities in their noses.

It shows a mating ritual taking place in the frozen waters of the Arctic Ocean.

The video below was released alongside the BBC documentary series “Frozen Planet II”, narrated by David Attenborough.

In the video, a young male hooded seal is seen floating along a patch of ice, where a female nurses a pup. A larger male is nearby who seems to have claimed the females.

The younger jumps onto the ice to intimidate the older. He inflates his nasal cavity, which swells like a black balloon on his forehead. The older male does the same. The display is accompanied by clicking noises which resonate in the inflated bag.

The older male eventually returns to the water.

Encouraged, the young male moves towards the female and puffs up again. But this time it comes out of his left nostril, appearing as a bright red balloon, as pictured below.

An illustration shows a hooded seal inflating its nasal sac.

A male hooded seal is shown in one illustration.


The female is unimpressed and sends the young male on her way with a bite on the tail.

“With only one day in the year to mate, the female is naturally picky,” Attenborough said in the documentary.

“And until the youngster has developed a more impressive ball, he’s unlikely to be picked. No wonder he’s deflated.”

More than 600,000 hooded seals live in the North Atlantic and Arctic Ocean, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries.

The expandable cavity of their nose is also called the hood, which gives the seals their name.

Males may swell the cavity on their forehead when they reach adulthood. But only with sexual maturity are they able to inflate the cavity like a reddish balloon under the nose. They shake these bags violently to intimidate their rivals and attract females.

These massive animals, which can weigh up to 776 pounds and stand up to 8.5 feet tall, are mostly solitary. For most of the year, they are fiercely territorial and will fend off competitors more aggressively than other seals, according to NOAA.

They only congregate when they migrate to their breeding grounds in East Greenland for two or three weeks in the spring.

Due to their aggressiveness, it is very difficult to get good pictures of the animals, wildlife photographer Sylvain Cordier previously told MailOnline.

That’s not the only bizarre fact about these seals. Milk from females is the fattest in the world, Insider previously reported.

It contains about 60% fat. By comparison, gourmet ice cream is only about 16% fat, according to Insider’s Uma Sharma and Shira Polan.

Fatty food allows puppies to double in weight during their first week of life. Hooded seal pups are weaned from milk in just four days, the shortest time for a mammal.