The leopard seal, sometimes called the sea leopard,
is an Antarctic species of seal. While most commonly
found along the coast of Antarctica and sub-Antarctic
islands, the leopard seal may also reside on the southern
coasts of other land masses in the southern hemisphere,
such as those of Australia, Africa, and the Atlantic
side of South America.
The leopard seal is the second largest species of seal
in the Antarctic, measuring about 8.5 to 12 feet in
length and 440 to 1320 pounds in weight, on average.
Females tend to be slightly larger than males. It is
outstripped in size only by the southern elephant seal.
The leopard seal is gray in color, with darker coloration
on its back and lighter coloration on its stomach. Its
throat is closer to white in color, and is adorned with
black spots from which the seal derives its name, as
they are reminiscent of those of leopards.
As a fierce hunter, the leopard seal is built for speed;
its build is much thinner than that of other species
of seal, and it has a more flexible neck. It has sharp
front teeth and molars that lock together, facilitating
its function as a diversified carnivorous predator.
The catalog of smaller animals the leopard seal preys
upon includes krill, squid, fish, penguins, and other
seals. The only natural predator of the leopard seal
is the orca, or killer whale.
The leopard seal hunts in the water, often waiting
at the edge of masses of ice until prey such as a penguin
enters the water. At this point, the leopard seal seizes
its prey in its mouth, killing it through force of impact
by shaking its head vigorously to beat the prey against
the surface of the water. While there have been reports
that the leopard seal skins its prey prior to eating
it, this idea has been found to be untrue; the leopard
seal is unable to do this with its teeth, and instead
breaks its prey into pieces of a manageable size by
shaking it violently to tear it.
The leopard seal is solitary, tending only to congregate
with other leopard seals when it mates, and even then
only in small groups. To do this, leopard seals use
acoustic calls to locate potential mates. Leopard seals
mate during a certain time of year so that, following
the nine-month gestation period, the female seal gives
birth during the Antarctic summer. Prior to birthing,
females dig holes in the ice in which they give birth
to one live seal pup each.
About the Author
Jacob Maddox manages content for Wildlife Animals http://www.wildlife-animals.com
an educational wildlife and animal website.