Don’t let the seemingly gentle appearance of the Leopard Seal fool you. They are the second leading predator in all of Antarctica.
The Leopard Seal draws its name from the presence of numerous spots on their bodies. This ocean-dwelling creature is also the second largest species of seal in the Antarctic. They are well-known for switching from playfully curious behavior to dangerous aggression without warning. So, not something you want to approach in the water to pet.
Though not generally threatening to humans, they have been known to attack divers.
Leopard Seal Physical Description
The Leopard Seal is both large and powerful – a dangerous combination. A slight degree of sexual dimorphism is present, with the females generally slightly larger in size than the males. The animal attains a length of as much as 11.5 ft (3.5 m) and weighs up to 1,320 lb (600 kg).
In addition to the omnipresent spots, the seal is a light gray in color on the stomach and a darker gray on the back.
The front teeth of this powerful carnivore are razor sharp – so, consider them cute from a distance. An interesting (unless you are their prey) adaptation locks their molars together in a way that allows them to filter krill from the water when larger prey is unavailable.
Leopard Seal Distribution, Habitat, and Behavior
The Leopard Seal lives exclusively in the extremely cold waters of Antarctica though they will migrate within that overall region. They divide their time between the ice packs and the upper portions of the ocean, never diving very deep.
The seals live a primarily solitary life, except during mating season. During the spring and summer, they spend long periods of time underwater, vocalizing which is perhaps part of their mating ritual. After mating, the female gives birth to a single pup.
The Leopard Seal is an opportunistic predator. Their prey includes penguins, squid, fish, and even other species of seals.