Intra- and intersexual variation in 16 skull dimensions and total body length of 233 aged Hooded seals caught in the north-west Atlantic were investigated. Absolute growth was described by asymptotic growth curves applied to single dimensions, as well as to scores on the first principal component of logarithmically transformed cranial data, which are believed to reflect the multivariate nature of growth. All dimensions were found to be fully developed later in males than in females. The growth of the male skulls was found to continue for more than 20 years, while the females approach final size about–7 years earlier than males, according to the scores on the first principal component. Female seals were found to reach 86 % of final total body length at the time of maturation, which is a generalized pinniped pattern. In both sexes, a yearling skull was characterized by a large brain-case, which decreased relatively with growth. The male skulls were further characterized by an increase in zygomatic width and orbital width in relation to basal length, a pattern which was not found in females.
All the asymptotic values were significantly larger in males than in females. The dimorphism develops mainly as a result of prolonged growth of males after the attainment of sexual maturity.