The Pinnip is an attractive Northern marine, seal-like mammal that is found throughout the northern oceans of Caelereth. They are fairly widespread, normally ranging as far south as Nyermersys and north as far as the Ice Sea, where they are the most prevalent. In winter months they may be seen as far south as Thyslan and Veltin.
Image description. The Pinnip, an attractive Northern Sarvonian marine, diving into the icy sea. Pic by Bard Judith.
The Pinnip is a long, sleek animal, with flippers rather than forelegs, and a
long graceful back that merges into a thick muscular tail which splits into two
flippers. They have large heads with slim pointed muzzles. Pinnips have big
dark, long-lashed eyes that seem almost black but are actually a rich, dark
brown. They have a special “third eyelid”, a transparent membrane that protects
the eyes underwater, while allowing them to see. They are quite large, an
average adult male weighing about 2 ½ to 3
pygges, while the females
are about 2-2 ½ pygges.
They average between 1 ½ to almost 2
There are several types of Pinnip. Except for the Black Pinnip, all varieties are covered with thick heavy fur. The fur is very warm and has two layers. The outer layer is longer, thick and coarse, and seems to be somewhat water resistant. The inner layer is made up of shorter, softer fur, which is very much in demand among noblewomen for winter coats and fetches a princely sum. In most Pinnips, the adult male’s fur is a soft sou’cald blue, which fades to almost white in the winter. The female’s fur is a lovely vontromarine in summer, also fading in the winter. Pinnip young, called calves, are a creamy white, which gradually changes into the adult colour in about two years. The average lifespan of a Pinnip is about 15 years, though those in captivity have reached as much as 22 years.
The Spotted Pinnip
This variety has large irregular splotches of slightly darker blue/green, which also fade in the winter, seeming to disappear. These Pinnips are more commonly found in the oceans by Cyhalloi and are by far the largest, weighing roughly half a pygge more than their smaller counterparts, and measuring over two peds. The largest male Pinnip ever found was a spotted Pinnip that weighed 4 pygges and 3 hebs and measured two and a half peds long!
A variant of the Spotted Pinnip, called the Kanapan Pinnip, lives only around the Kanapan Peninsula. Its fur is softer and finer than that of most Pinnips, which is probably an adaptation due to the warmer seas and more temperate climate in that territory.
The Caped Pinnip
Both sexes of this variety have a thick, ruffled mane from the crown of their head to the base of the neck, somewhat resembling a cape. These are seen in the more northern oceans of Sarvonia, and are rarely spotted below Naurooth.
The Common Pinnip
This is the most well known variety, and is as described above. It ranges from the Ice Sea to just below the Isles of Ram in the east and Thyslan in the west.
The Black Pinnip
Exceedingly rare, this variety is completely black, with soft short fur and is only found around the continent of Aeruillin, where the climate and nesting conditions seem to be more to its liking.
Most Pinnips, excluding the black type, are capable of withstanding extremely
cold temperatures. Not only does their thick fur protect them, but they have a
special layer of brown fat just under the skin, which seems to insulate them
from the cold. Pinnips are very graceful and swift in the
water, but rather clumsy on land.
Territory. Except for the Black Pinnip, which makes its home in the oceans around Aeruillin, most Pinnips are northern creatures. The Caped and Spotted Pinnips are almost unknown in Southern Sarvonia. As previously mentioned, the Spotted Pinnip makes its home in the area around the continent of Cyhalloi, while the Caped Pinnip is best known in Northern Sarvonia. The Common Pinnip is the variety that most people recognize.
Habitat/Behaviour. Pinnips live in big colonies of fifty to a hundred family groups. They mate for life and tend to settle in sheltered rocky or sandy areas around the coastlines of their particular territory. Pinnips are very sociable and do not like being alone. Each family stakes out its own little territory in the colony grounds over the summer and remains there. During the day the females and calves mingle freely within the area, while the males go to find food for their mate and baby (or babies). Young unmated adult males and females tend to gather together in separate areas from the family groups, until they find mates and then join a family colony.
Pinnips communicate by barking and squealing. They can produce an astonishing range of sounds. Each mother and baby, for instance, can identify the other’s call across an entire colony of barking Pinnips. Researchers have also identified several specific sounds, such as the piercingly high pitched warning squeal that indicates the presence of a white bear or sea monster (the major predators) or the deep, throaty grunts males utter when trying to attract a mate, or the soft baby chirps of contentment made by a sleepy calf.
Diet. Marine fish comprise the mainstay of the Pinnip diet, such as the bonehead and the evoor. The more southern Pinnips also enjoy the flyer crabs, oysters and trysters. They break the crab’s shell by banging it vigorously against a rock. Oysters and trysters they chew up, shells and all, and then spit out the bits of shell.
Mating. Pinnips mate for life. If a mate dies, the survivor will often pine away as well. Once the Pinnip calves have reached adulthood (at about age two), they leave the family colony and join a “singles” group, composed of both males and females. They usually remain with this group for about a year or maybe two, by which point most of them will have found a mate, and moved away to a family colony, and a new group of “singles” replaces them.
The mating season begins in very early spring. Males and females pair up and move to the family colony. They establish a nesting site and collect vegetation and seaweed into a loose pile. The mating itself takes place in the water. The pair swims out together, sliding their bodies over and around each other in the water, rubbing their necks and heads together in a kind of sensual dance. Eventually they come together and mate, belly to belly, just below the surface of the water.
Afterwards they return to the nest. Mating usually occurs repeatedly throughout the season until/unless the female becomes pregnant. A pregnant Pinnip loses all previous interest in mating behavior and becomes ravenously hungry, eating nearly twice as much as usual. The male cossets her tenderly during this time, bringing her food and gently fussing over her. It takes about 90-95 days, and just before the calves are ready to be born, the female begins to shed her fur heavily. The male will groom the loose hair from her coat with his teeth and they line the nest with it. The female will have one, or sometimes two, calves. Pinnip calves are born with their eyes open, and with downy coats of soft white fur. They usually nurse well into the fall, but have started eating fish by winter.
Usages. The Himiko people, in the northern Iceland regions, use the Pinnip furs for many of their garments. If the coarser outer fur is removed, it makes the softest garments or bedding for a baby. Most of the tribes in Northern Sarvonia hunt and eat Pinnip meat, but it is commoner the further north one ventures. Pinnip furs are much valued in New-Santhala by the noble-ladies and Turik of Barsalon has made many a profit through his travels by them. The northernmost tribes also eat the “brown fat” layer of the Pinnip, claiming that it helps to insulate them from the cold as well. Pinnips can also be tamed and taught tricks, as they are very friendly and quite bright. Occasionally a traveling animal show will acquire one and it is almost invariably the most popular performer of the show.
Myth/Lore. The northern people tell many folk tales of the Pinnip, which give it a reputation for cleverness and agility. Most of these deal with themes such as how the cunning Pinnip tricked the white bear, or where the Pinnip got its beautiful coat (through a bargain with Baveras) and so on. One tribe even has a special ceremonial wedding dance based on the Pinnips’ courtship swim.
Researchers. The major contributors to this article are the northern researchers Turik of Barsalon, Alysse the Santharchivist and Drogo Minar’ian. Grateful recognition is also owed to the lady Minoki Kiuru, without whose assistance this information would be considerably less detailed.
Information provided by Alysse the Likely