Leopard Seal Facts!

Leopard Seal by Papa Lima Whiskey GFDL

Leopard Seal Facts!

Leopard Seal by Papa Lima Whiskey GFDL

The Leopard Seal is found in the Antarctic waters and it is the second largest species of seal there after the southern elephant seal. It is about 2.4-3.5 m in length and is well adapted for the life in the ocean. It has a sleek, torpedo-like body. It uses its hind flippers to propel through the water and its front ones to steer. The front flippers are very long enabling it to change directions quickly, which is important when chasing fast swimming prey.

Leopard Seal Prey

Photographer Sean Heseltine gets a close up look at a leopard seal’s teeth. Image credit: Department of Conservation cc2.0

The prey of the seal consists of penguins, squid, fish, krill and sometimes also other smaller seals like the crab seal. The leopard seal is a very powerful predator with its strong jaws and long canine teeth. The front teeth of the seal are sharp similar to other carnivorous animals’, while the molars are made to lock together so that it can sieve tiny krill from the water. The only known natural predator of the leopard seal is the killer whale, although only occasionally.

Penguin Attack

A leopard seal captures an emperor penguin. Image credit: NOAA Photo Library cc2.0

When on the hunt for penguins, the seal swims in the water near the edge of the ice waiting for the penguins to enter the water. As soon as it spots a penguin it will attack with great speed utilizing the element of surprise. It shakes the bird vigorously by its feet and beats the body against the water’s surface till the bird is dead. However it cannot tear the prey into manageable pieces with its teeth, so it thrashes the prey from side to side to tear off the flesh in to pieces.

Leopard Seal Pups

Before giving birth to a pup, the female consumes more food than she normally does so that she can survive the days following the birth without any food. To give birth she hauls herself up onto the ice. She gives birth to a single pup at a time and the newborn looks like the smaller version of the adults and doesn’t have a white coat like pups of other seal species. The newborn will measure about 1.5 meters in length. The mother’s milk is very rich in fat so the baby gains weight very rapidly.

Leopard Seals are featured in the following books:
25 Whales, Dolphins and other Sea Mammals
101 Facts… Polar Animals

The YouTube video playlist below contains videos about Leopard Seals. Details of the videos featured are underneath.

The Playlist:

  1. National Geographic Live! : Face-to-Face with a Leopard Seal by NationalGeographic
  2. Penguin vs. Leopard Seal by NationalGeographic
  3. Emperor Penguins v Leopard Seal – [easyazon-link asin=”B001957A4E” locale=”us”]Blue Planet[/easyazon-link] – BBC Earth
  4. Leopard Seals on the Hunt – Davis Station, Antarctica by [easyazon-link asin=”B000OQDX54″ locale=”us”]Wild Chronicles[/easyazon-link] NatGeoOceans
  5. World’s Deadliest : Seal vs. Penguin by NatGeoWild
  6. Studying Leopard Seals – Davis Station, Antarctica by [easyazon-link asin=”B000OQDX54″ locale=”us”]Wild Chronicles[/easyazon-link] NatGeoOceans


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