Interesting facts about Weddell seals

weddell seal

The Weddell seal is a species of seal.

They live around the South Pole, on or near the coast of Antarctica.

Weddell seals are commonly found on fast ice, or ice fastened to land; they venturing only 15–20 km (9 to 12.5 mi) into the Southern Ocean to feed.

They don’t migrate and local movements are caused by changes in ice conditions.

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Underwater swimming occurs under natural ice cracks or under ice areas thin enough so that the seals can chew breathing holes using canine teeth.

The average lifespan of a Weddell seal is about 30 years.

Weddell seal is a relatively large seal. It measure about 2.5–3.5 m (8 ft 2 in–11 ft 6 in) long and weigh 400–600 kg (880–1,320 lb). Males weigh less than females, usually about 500 kg (1,100 lb) or less.

Adult Weddell seals have a dark gray coat that is marked with black and lighter gray areas. This coat moults around the beginning of summer.

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Their large eyes have features that help them hunt in the sea where light is limited.

Weddell seals are not very social when out of the water, avoiding physical contact most of the time. When in fast ice habitat, they tend to congregate in groups along recurrent cracks, leads, and near access holes to the water.

Weddell seals are impressive divers, they can reach 600 meters (1970 feet) in depth and spend as long as 82 minutes, the longest dives are undertaken when swimming under ice searching for new breathing holes.

The majority of the behavior occurs under water during the night. Weddell seals move in slow humping motion on land as well as on ice.

Weddell seals are top predators in the Antarctic. They eat an array of fish, bottom-feeding prawns, cephalopods and crustaceans. A sedentary adult eats around 10 kg (22 lb) a day, while an active adult eats over 50 kg (110 lb) a day.

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Weddell seals communicate with each other using clicks, whistles, booms and many other eerie sounds. Their calls under water can be heard from above the ice.

Weddell seals give birth to one pup from September to October. The pups are usually silver to golden in color and weigh about 50 pounds. The mother and pup stay together for 5 or 6 weeks. After 2 weeks the mother will take the pup into the water for its first swim. They leave when they are ready to hunt and are fat enough to survive in the harsh weather.

weddell seal mother and cub

The killer whale and leopard seals are the only predators of the Weddell seal. Weddell seals are often protected from predators during the winter since both the killer whale and leopard seal cannot travel great distances under the ice.

Throughout the early periods of the Antarctic exploration, Weddell seals suffered dramatic declines as they were hunted for food and oil. Fortunately, populations have since recovered after the elimination of commercial sealing in the 1950s.

Because of its abundance, relative accessibility, and ease of approach by humans, it is the best-studied of the Antarctic seals.

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An estimated 800,000 individuals remain today.

Weddell seals have the most southerly distribution of any mammal.

The Weddell seal was discovered and named in the 1820s during expeditions led by James Weddell, the British sealing captain, to the parts of the Southern Ocean now known as the Weddell Sea.

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