Antarctic Fur Seal

Antarctic Fur Seal

Antarctic Fur Seal – Arctocephalus gazella

Description

The coloring of the Antarctic Fur Seals allow them to be easily identified. The males feature a very dark brown color. The females offer more of a grayish color as due to the young pups. The males can weight up to 460 pounds but the females are much smaller at about 200 pounds. Both can be about 6.5 feet in length.

They feature external ears which is noticeable because most of the species of seals don’t. You will also notice that they have a nose that is very short but very wide. They have long whiskers and they have waterproof fur on their bodies. They are more slender than other types of seals but they are also very strong.

Distribution

There is quite a diverse distribution out there when it comes to the Antarctic Fur Seals. They have been found in very cold areas as well as those that are very warm. Some have even been identified around Brazil. The fact that they are so spread out is really remarkable considering how low their numbers once were.

Behavior

While they do gather in large groups for the breeding process, most of them are very isolated. They tend to live alone or in small groups both on land and in the water the rest of the time. The females are very good caregivers to their pups until it is time for them to go on their own. The Antarctic Fur Seals love to spend their time on land though so they can soak up the sunlight.

Diet /Feeding

The Antarctic Fur Seal can dive and remain under the water for up to 10 minutes at a time. They consume large amounts of krill, fish, and squid while in the water. They are also known to consume small birds while on land. Many of these types of seals will feed at night due to that being the best time to find what they are interested in. When they hunt for food really depends on the location where they live.

Reproduction

Both males and females are ready to mate when they are about 3.5 years old. These seals move towards the common breeding ground where more than 95% of the species gather for the event. This is found around the islands on the Antarctic Polar Front. The males arrive first and begin to battle each other as only the strongest will get the chance to mate with the females that are on their way.

What is interesting is that the females are already pregnant when they arrive at the breeding grounds. They have their pups within the first couple of days after arriving. About a week later they are ready to mate again. They will nurse for several days, leave to feed for several days, and then nurse again. While they are gone the pups are able to live off of the fat reserves in their body.

A high percentage of these pups don’t make it past their first year. They are favorite snacks of predators including Killer Whales and Leopard Seals. Others simply aren’t able to fend for themselves in the water and so they don’t get the nutrition that they need.

Conservation

There aren’t any conservation efforts in place for the Antarctic Fur Seal at this time. There are more than 4 million of them out there so that is good news. However, they were once driven to the brink of extinction in the 18th and 19th centuries. The numbers were able to increase after they were protected under the Antarctic Treaty. The males have a shorter life span of approximately 13 years. The females can live up to 25 years.