All species forage at sea but use either land or ice to produce their pups, to molt, and to rest. Mating occurs on land in a few species and in the water in most; occasional mating on ice has been seen but usually seals that give birth on ice mate in the water.

Land habitats used are variable, including sand, cobble and boulder beaches, rocky outcroppings, and caves (gray seals and Mediterranean monk seals [Monachus monachus]). Some species like gray and harbor seals may use all or most of these different land habitats as well as ice in some locations.

Ice habitats used by phocids include both floe ice and land fast ice. The former is free floating and the size of ice pans is highly variable. The latter consists of large ice masses affixed to land masses and are usually more stable.

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