Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Weddell Seal

Leptonychotes weddellii
For the last week or so we've been learning about animals that live in mountain rainforests. This week let's totally mix it up and move to a completely different ecosystem and location entirely-- Antarctica.Our southernmost continent doesn't harbor a ton of year-round terrestrial life, but it is the migratory home of several different birds, and it is surrounded by waters that are teeming with life of all types.

The Weddell Seal is one of those marine animals that makes Antarctica its home. These large, docile mammals live further south than any other Seal, and they tend to stick close to home-- most never move more than a few miles from where they were born.

Weddell Seals take advantage of the rich waters surrounding Antarctica. They hunt Cod, Silverfish, Octopus, Crab, and many other sea creatures. While searching for food they can dive as far as 2,000ft, and stay under for 45 minutes. An adult Weddell Seals eats anywhere from 20-110lbs of food every day!

You'd think a 10ft, 1,000lb mammal would be near the top of the food chain-- but Weddell Seals have predators of their own! Orcas and Leopard Seals love to track them down, so they have to be careful while fishing and especially while raising their young. Little Weddell Seals grow fast-- they can swim at 2 weeks -- but they aren't weaned or able to hunt on their own for another month after that.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : Antarctica
Size : Length up to 10ft (3m), Weight around 1,100 lbs (500kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Carnivora
Family : Phocidae -- Genus : Leptonychotes -- Species : L. weddellii
Image :  NOAA

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