Distribution and Habitat
The leopard seal is circumpolar in the pack ice zone of the Antarctic Ocean.
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.
Data from between 1968 and 1983 indicate a world population minimally in the order of 300,000-500,000.
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.