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Leopard Seals

Updated on November 27, 2019

Leopard Seal Anatomy and Lifespan

The Leopard seal's scientific name is Hydruraga Leptonyx.

They are carnivorous mammals that can grow up to 10 to 11.5 feet long with females being larger than males.

In the wild, leopard seals can live up to 26 years old.

They have no ears, long bodies with elongated heads. They have large black spots on their coat like the big cat they are named after only their coat is grey and not golden like the feline leopards. Leopard seals are insulated by thick layers of blubber, or, fat that helps keep them warm in icy waters. They also have large flippers and strong muscular tails that help propel them in the waters when going after their prey.

Leopard Seal Behaviors

Out of all the seal species, the leopard seals are the most fierce and formidable. These seals are highly aggressive and tend to live in small groups, sometimes traveling alone or with just one or two companions. They have been known to attack other seals and humans and they seem to not fear anything or anyone. They only really have one natural predator and that is the Orca, also known as the Killer Whale.

Underwater in the summer months, leopard seals will sing and be highly vocal. The males are especially loud and will call out for hours at a time during the day. They can be playful and will swim upside down and even play with their prey when they get board. When they see a penguin swimming to the shore the seal will cut it off and chase it back into the water just for fun.

Where Do Leopard Seals Live?

Leopard seals have thick coats and blubber that keep them warm in the icy waters of the Arctic and Sub-Arctic. However, while they mostly live in the cold regions, they have been found in warmer waters as well. Leopard seals have been spotted in areas such as Australia, New Zealand and even South Africa.

Leopard seals spend a majority of their time in the water but will come up for air and to lounge around on floating chunks of ice and sometimes on snow covered beaches.

Unlike most seal species who live in large colonies, leopard seals live in small groups or even by themselves. It is estimated that to total population of leopard seals is between 220,000 and 440,000.

Hunting and Prey

Leopard seals have strong jaws, sharp long teeth, and powerful bodies built for speed. This seal is the only one of it's species that feeds on warm-blooded prey, all other seals feed mostly on fish or other cold-blooded sea life.

They start off eating krill when they are pups and gradually move on to larger prey. Leopard seals are at the top of the food chain in their species and will go after fish, squid, shellfish, sea birds and even other seals. Their favorite food by far though, is penguins. Leopard seals will dive in after penguins and chase them down, grab them with their sharp teeth and thrash around from side to side until their prey is dead. If they capture them on land, the seals will thrash the penguin on the ground until it is dead.

In the summer, the seals will wait in shallow waters for fledgling penguins to pass by. Due to the strong flippers on the seals, they are not only fast in the water but are also quick on land making hunting easier.

With larger prey such as other seals, the leopard seal with use it's teeth to tear off large chunks and swallow them. They also swallow fish whole often while the fish is still alive.

Leopard Seal hunting
Leopard Seal hunting | Source

Mating and Parenting

Leopard seals mating season is between December and January however, due to their aggressive nature, researchers don't have a lot of information on their mating behaviors. It's believed the males will attract a female with a series of grunts and calls and that during the mating season they all gather in a large group. Once the female is pregnant the males leaves and she sets off to dig a den in the ice.

Female's will carry the baby for up to 11 months before giving birth to a pup in her ice den that she digs out for several months. The pups are born weighing around 65 to 70 pounds and being 4 feet long. The females take care of their pups for about 3 months until they are able to care for themselves.

Pups are often kept safe and don't have to worry about predators unless the male seal sticks around. The males sometimes become aggressive with the pups but normally leave after mating.

Pups are weaned off their mothers milk and learn how to swim at one month old and start to feed on krill, by the time they are 3 months old, the pups have doubled in size and are able to fend for themselves.

Male seals reach sexual maturity at 4.5 years and females at 4 years. Females usually only have one pup a year.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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