|Description & Characteristics:
One of the world’s most abundant large mammals, Crabeater seals' numbers have increased enormously in the last 50 years most likely due to declining whale populations. Inhabiting the shifting pack ice which surrounds the Antarctic continent, comparatively little is known about their behavior due to the difficulty of establishing scientific field stations on the ice.
Crabeaters are mostly dark grey in appearance, but in summer the coat can bleach almost to white. In general, they are lighter on the bottom (their ventral side) and darker on the top (their dorsal side). Their faces are dog-like and they have characteristic chocolate-brown markings and fleckings on the shoulders, sides and flanks.
Crabeater seals are more agile on land and ice than other Antarctic seals and thus can travel far from the open sea. The remains of dead seals, presumably trapped by pack ice, have been found miles from the sea.
The Leopard seal is the main predator of young Crabeater seals and an important one in helping to keep populations in check.
- Crabeater seals are now the single biggest consumers of krill, accounting for about 80 million tons a year.
- The crabeaters have remarkable five-pointed teeth, the upper and lower rows of which interlock to form a strainer, so they can retain the krill while allowing water to be expelled.
- When approached, crabeater seals do not roll onto their backs like Weddell seals; rather they open their mouths, bare their teeth, and snort.
- Crabeater seals can travel impressive distances on land. Dead seals have been found 35 miles up the Ferrar Glacier at almost 3,500 feet in elevation.