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Types of Seals

This page will discuss types of seals and the text is taken directly from the website Cool Antartica.

3 seals will be discussed. They are: Elephant Seals - Crabeater Seals - Leopard Seals

Southern Elephant Seals

Get ready to learn lots of interesting things about Southern Elephant Seals. The following paragraphs will describe how these interesting creatures live.

What are elephant seals like?

The following paragraphs describe the physical characteristics of Elephant Seals.

Elephant Seals are the largest of all seals.

Males can grow to 15ft and weigh up to 4 tons. Like fur seals, they show a strong sexual dimorphism (difference in size between the males and females), females grow to about 9ft and 2000 lbs. A fully grown male and female side by side are commonly mistaken for an adult and juvenile.

They are called elephant seals partly because of their size and also partly because of the males snout or trunk that he inflates to impress and intimidate rivals when competing with other males.

How do Elephant Seals gather?

The following paragraphs describe the eating habits of Elephant Seals.

When ashore and not competing with each other and when they don't have pups, elephant seals gather in groups called "pods".

Pods are extremely smelly places! If the wind is towards you, you know you are coming up to an elephant seal pod long before you see it!

A diet largely consisting of squid that is caught during feeding dives doesn't do anything for the digestive system or your breath!

Most of the time pods are quite fairly restful places in a constant snoring and guttural noise sort of way, but every now and then one of the inner most seals decides it wants to go to sea. Two tons or more of seal lumbering across his sleeping companions causes quite a commotion.

Elephant seals spend only a small amount of their time on land. Ashore they are cumbersome and great lumbering beasts, in the water like many aquatic animals, they become lithe and graceful with the blubber that made them ungainly on land becoming essential as insulation.

What are young elephant seals like?

The following paragraph describes the life of a baby Elephant Seal.

Elephant seal pups are born in the Antarctic spring. Like many Antarctic seal pups, they stay with their mother increasing rapidly in weight while the mother gets progressively thinner. Eventually the mother has to feed and teach the pup, by which time the pup is quite large and well developed.

The pups are very dark at birth and have quite delicate flippers with long elegant nails that they scratch themselves with quite precisely.

Elephant seal pups are like little old men, very precise and somewhat gnome-like, a stage that they grow out quite rapidly as they become teenagers (in elephant seal years that is).

How friendly are Elephant seals?

The following paragraphs describe the habits of Elephant Seals. You will also learn the safest way to interact with them, in the unlikely event you come across a pod.

Antarctic seals are generally completely unafraid of man despite the inglorious days of sealing when hundreds of thousands of them were killed for their fur and/or blubber.

These days the recommendation is to stay considerably further away than this, the small pups don't like their personal space invaded. The larger and older seals nearby seem completely unflustered.

The only time these seals get very upset is if you approach them walking upright and normally. When they threaten each other, they rear upwards to get as much height as they can and so seem to assume that an upright figure is a threat. If you get down low, they are pretty much unfrazzled, though by that time you may be uncomfortably close to a ton or more of smelly, sharp-toothed animated blubber.

Crabeater Seals

Get ready to learn lots of interesting things about Crabeater Seals. The following paragraphs will describe how these interesting creatures live.

How do Crabeater Seals Live and Mate?

Ever wonder what Crabeater Seals look like? Have you ever wondered about their personal habits? Have you ever pondered what your family life would be like if you were a Crabeater Seal? Well, I'm going to tell you anyway.

Crabeater seals are probably the most numerous large mammals on earth after humans.

It is unusual to see many crabeater seals together as they live almost their entire lives on and amongst floating ice. For this reason also, it is difficult to estimate their numbers, but by 2000 there were thought to be about 50 million.

Crabeaters are large seals of about 484lbs. They are frequently scarred, sometimes quite badly by predatory leopard seals or killer whales.

Crabeaters are fairly solitary, and the males and females are about the same size as the males do not need to be large to compete for a harem of females as in elephant and fur seals.

The female gives birth on an ice floe around September and suckles the young from a birth weight of about 44 lbs to 242lbs at weaning, this takes around a month. As with other Antarctic seals, the female comes into oestrous very quickly and an attendant male will mate with a female, seeing others off. After mating the male leaves the female and goes to find another receptive female that he can mate with.

Many seals give the impression that they form cosy family groups as they lay around together. The reality is usually that it is a mixed group of individuals with no real bonds other than between mothers and their own pups.

How friendly are Crabeater Seals?

Crabeater Seals are not very friendly. Read on to learn more about their interactions with other forms of wildlife.

Crabeaters are the most timid of the commonly encountered Antarctic seals.

Whereas most types of Antarctic seal will lay there pretty much oblivious to what's going on around them, crabeaters tend to be more alert and are less easy to approach even if on an ice floe, they will quickly display signs of nervousness and are inclined to slip into the water and swim away.

Leopard Seals

Get ready to learn lots of interesting things about Leopard Seals. The following paragraphs will describe how these interesting creatures live.

What are Leopard Seals Like?

Leopard Seals are scary, especially if you are a penguin. Even if you aren't a penguin, they are foirmidable. The next section describes the looks and hunting habits of the Leopard Seal.

Named for the spotting on its underside, the Leopard Seal is one of the largest predators in Antarctica, smaller only than the killer whale.

Females are larger than males and average about 10ft long and around 770lbs. They appear more squat when on of an ice floe, where they are nearly always seen, only rarely coming ashore onto land. In the sea, they appear longer, sleeker and almost snake-like in form and movements, though they swim of course with fore and hind flippers.

Leopard seals are built for speed, they have a large powerful head, a huge gape and a massive lower jaw. They frequent the edge of the pack ice and in particular areas around penguin rookeries all around Antarctica. They are fairly opportunistic as predators and will east a wide variety of prey from krill to penguins to young crabeater seals - their main prey. Their teeth are very much those of a carnivore, though they are also partly adapted with three large cusps on the pre-molars and molars that interlock and are also able to act as a strainer when feeding on krill.

They are inquisitive and fearless, frequently approaching small boats to investigate when their large "grin" and all of those teeth they have can make them appear quite menacing.

Their way of dealing with penguins is quite gruesome. Once caught and killed, the penguin is shaken violently from side to side by the leopard seal until it is literally thrown out of its skin and feathers for the seal to then swallow. Floating penguin skins in the sea are a sure sign of leopard seals nearby.

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This material is used with permission and © Cool Antartica.

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