Distribution and Habitat
The Ross seal is circumpolar but patchily distributed in the pack ice zone of the Antarctic Ocean. It is most abundant in the King Haakon VII and Ross Seas. Ross seals are the least studied of all Antarctic seals, due to their dispersed and isolated distribution.
Male seals are about 1.68-2.08 m in length, weighing about 129-216 kg. Females are slightly larger, at about 1.96-2.36 m in length and 159-204 kg in weight. The coat is dark grey to chestnut above, silvery-white below, with light and dark flecks where the two colours meet. Light and dark chestnut or chocolate stripes appear from the chin to the chest, and sometimes along the sides of the neck. The Ross seal has a thick neck, short muzzle, and sharp, recurved incisors and canines. Males reach sexual maturity between 3-5 years, males between 2-7. Pups are born on pack ice in November, and are approximately 105-120 cm long and weigh about 27 kg. They are nursed for about 28 days. Ross seals are thought to be largely solitary, feeding primarily on cephalopods (squids), but also some fishes and krill as well. Ross seals have a distinctive trilling, siren-like call, and when approaches will raise their head to almost a vertical position.
The world population is estimated to number about 200,000, making it the rarest of the 4 seals which breed on Antarctic pack ice.
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.