Friday, November 15, 2013

The Most Ferocious of All Seals - The Leopard Seal

      Facts About The Leopard Seal


The waters of the Antarctic is home to a predator that may be even more terrifying than the killer whale. The leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx) can grow to a length of 12 feet and weigh as much as 1,300 pounds, making it the second largest species of seal in the Antarctic. Although attacks on humans are rare, they are considered to be potentially dangerous and visitors to Antarctica are warned to keep a distance.

Named for their spotted coat and their reputation as fierce hunters, the leopard seal is at the top of the Antarctic food chain and its primary prey is krill, penguins, and other seals. Orcas are the only known predator of the leopard seal. Leopard seals can be found throughout the southern hemisphere on the coast of Antarctica and as far north as the southern coasts of Australia, New Zealand, South America and South Africa. They are graceful swimmers that can remain underwater for up to half an hour because they are able to close their noses automatically and not reopen them until they surface. Leopard seals generally attack their prey from behind, using their powerful crushing jaws. To catch penguins, leopard seals lunge out of the water onto the ice and drag the penguin under the water until it drowns. They are shallow water hunters that do not dive deep because their diet mainly consists of warm-blooded animals.

Leopard Seal Moves In For the Attack

Leopard seals only move onto land during breeding season (November-December) and then spend the rest of their time in the water. Gestation is up to 11 months and the female will only birth a single pup per litter. Leopard seal pups weigh around 60 pounds at birth and are weaned after a month. Male leopard seals reach sexual maturity around the age of 7 years and females reach sexual maturity between 3 and 7 years.
The leopard seal has a lifespan up to 25 years in the wild.

Attacks on Humans

There have been several documented cases of leopard seals attacking humans, one of them being fatal.  In 2003, a 28 year old British marine biologist named Kirsty Brown was dragged underwater by a leopard seal while snorkeling near the Antarctic Peninsula. It was reported that the leopard seal dragged her nearly 200 feet underwater until she drowned, making this the first known human fatality from a leopard seal.

Diver Encountering a Leopard Seal

Did you know? Leopard seals are the only seals known to hunt other warm-blooded animals.


Post a Comment