|Description & Characteristics:
Considered the most ferocious seal in the Antarctic, Leopard seals are found among the pack ice in summer and on the more northerly sub-Antarctic islands in winter. The only seal to prey on other seal species, there are many tales from early explorers about harrowing encounters with Leopard seals. However, although attacks by 'sea leopards' on humans have been documented, most of the stories are just folklore. That said, present-day Antarctic scientists know enough to keep their distance from this seal's formidable jaws.
Leopard seals' main source of food is penguins and they can often be seen cruising in the vicinity of Adelie, Chinstrap, and Gentoo colonies. Typically, they will lie in wait by an icy ledge or rock outcrop, pouncing on the first penguin to dive into the water. Leopards will also hunt fish, squid and krill, and occasionally other seals like the Crabeater seal.
Scientists still have much to learn about the reproductive behaviors of Leopard seals due to the difficulty of monitoring breeding sites on the shifting pack ice of the Antarctic. Solitary animals, by nature, Leopard seals come on land only during the breeding season and then only in pairs or small groups. Females dig a hole in the ice early in the austral summer where they give birth to single pup after a 9 month gestation. The female protects the pups until they can take care of themselves.
Leopard seals may live for 26 years or more. Their only known natural predator is the Killer Whale.
- The Leopard seal is the largest of the true Antarctic seals.
- Leopard Seals are the only seals that eat other seals.
- Leopard seals have a excellent senses of sight and smell under water.
- Leopard seals catch penguins by their feet and then beat them back and forth on the surface of the water to skin them. Then, they eat the carcass.