Distribution and Habitat
The crabeater seal is circumpolar in distribution, following the advancing and retreating pack ice of Antarctica.
Both male and female adult seals are approximately 2.57 m, and weigh around 224 kg. The pelt is a uniform light gray, with irregular patches of spots and rings on the sides, and flippers. Immature seals are darker in colour. Males and females reach sexual maturity between 2.5 and 6 years of age, depending on food availability. Pups are born on pack ice in September-December, and are about 120 cm long and weigh 20-40 kg. Newborn pups have a soft, woolly, grey-brown lanugo, which is moulted about 2 weeks after birth. Males join females and pups to form "triads" during the whelping season. Mating occurs after the pups are weaned, between 14 and 21 days after birth. Contrary to what their name would suggest, crabeater seals feed principally on krill - not crabs - but may also feed seasonally on Antarctic silver fish.
The crabeater seal is the most numerous of all the pinnipeds. Census data from between 1968 and 1983 suggest a world population of 11-12 million, but early results from the multinational Antarctic Pack Ice Seal Survey which took place in 1999-2000 appear to indicate that numbers of the seals are much less than previously thought.
Threats to the Species
Reijnders, P. et al. 1993. Seals, Fur Seals, Sea Lions, and Walrus. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN Seal Specialist Group. Gland, Switzerland. 87pp.