@pagophilus.orgLeopard seal
Hydrurga leptonyx

Leopard seal

Taxonomy

  • Order: Carnivora
    • Family: Phocidae
      • Genus: Hydrurga
        • Species: H. leptonyx

Leopard seal Distribution Map

Distribution and Habitat
The leopard seal is circumpolar in the pack ice zone of the Antarctic Ocean. 

Natural History
Males are about 2.5-3.2 m in length, weighing about 200-450 kg.  Females are larger: approximately 2.4-3.3 in length and weighing 225-591 kg. The coat is silver to dark grey above, paler below, with light and dark spots on the throat, shoulders, sides, and belly.   Often described as having a reptillian appearance, the body is elongate, with a large head and massive jaws.  The canine and postcanine teeth are also massive.  Males reach sexual maturity between 2-6 years, females between 3-7.  Pups are born from September - January on the pack ice, and occasionally on islands. Newborn pups have a long, soft lanugo with a pattern resembling that of the adult.  Nursing lasts about 4 weeks.  Leopard seals are solitary, usually found alone on the ice and at sea, but often in association with other pinniped species or large colonies of penguins.  Penguins form a large part of their diet; the remainder of their prey changes according to season and abundance and includes krill, cephalopods, Antarctic silver fish, young crabeater seals, and seabirds. 

Status
Data from between 1968 and 1983 indicate a world population minimally in the order of 300,000-500,000.  

Threats to the Species

Sources
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.

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