Leopard Seal (Hydrurga leptonyx)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora Suborder: Pinnipedia
Family:    Phocidea
Size:    Length: 10 to 15 feet (3 to 4.5 m)
Weight: 600 to 1,000 pounds (272 to 454 kg)
Diet: Crabeater and fur seals, penguins and fish (mostly krill, a shrimp-like crustacean)
Distribution: Coastal waters of the Antarctic, subpolar waters of the Southern Hemisphere
Young:  1 pup
Animal Predators:  Killer whales
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Male: Bull  Female: Cow  Young: Pup
Lifespan: Leopard seals have been known to live for more than 26 years



·         The female leopard seal is larger than the male—this is rare amongst seal species.

·         They are also known as sea leopards, because of their spotted coats and their fierce hunting ability.

·         The scientific name is derived from Greek and means: Hydrurga—water worker; leptonyx—slender.

·         The leopard seal is one of the largest seals living in the Antarctic.

·         They are the only seals that feed on warm-blooded prey.



Leopard seals belong to the true seal family, which are characterized by their lack of ears. Leopard seals have long, sharply pointed teeth, unlike most other seals. They have a silvery-grey back, light undersides and they are covered with black spots. The body is streamlined and massive, with a large head and long, broad foreflippers. 



Leopard seals live in the coastal regions of the Antarctic, including off the coasts of New Zealand, Australia, South America and most of the nearby islands. 


Feeding Habits

They are aggressive hunters with voracious appetites and feed on crabeater and fur seals, penguins and fish (mostly krill, a shrimp-like crustacean). 



Mating begins in November and occurs while the animals are in the water. After an 11-month pregnancy, the female gives birth to a single pup on an ice pack. The pup weighs in at just over 50 pounds (22.6 kg) and is approximately five feet (1.5 m) in length. It nurses for two to four weeks on the ice, then moults its first coat and begins to learn how to swim and hunt for its own food. Pups start with krill before eventually moving on to bigger prey. They begin to breed sometime between the age of two to seven years. 



Leopard seals live mostly solitary lives, but gather together in groups during mating season. Leopard seals swim with long, powerful, simultaneous strokes of the forelimbs, unlike most other seals, who propel themselves by means of side-to-side strokes of the hindlimbs. Although they move quickly and efficiently in the water, they move awkwardly and slowly on land. Leopard seals are known to be fierce, but they only attack humans when provoked. Leopard seals can produce a variety of vocalisations, which have been correlated with different body movements and postures. These vocalisations have been associated with mating signals. 



Leopard seals are not a conservation concern. The Antarctic Treaty and the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (CCAS) regulates all killing of seals in the Antarctic. 











Leopard Seal Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US