Leopard Seals: Almost Apex Predator of Antarctic Waters

If I am correct most people find seals to be rather benign and cute or amusing. It is easy to forget they are serious predators. Leopard seals are certainly an exception to the cute and benign idea.

They are also called sea leopards because they are spotted, swim up to 25 miles per hour and have a mouthful of sharp teeth.

Sharp teeth and spots on display. Leopard seals are apex predators. Photo ImageAbyss

According to Brittanica these seals can top 800 pounds and reach a 12 foot length. They prey on other warm blooded mammals for the most part. Other sources say they eat kril, fish octopuses, penguins and oher seals.

close up photography of cooked shrimps and pasta
Krill are tiny relatives of the shrimp on yor plate. A leopards seals jaws allow them to eat the tiny crustaceans by filtering them out of sea water. Photo by Dana Tentis on Pexels.com

Leopard seals (Hydrurga leptonyx) so far have rarely attacked people. One fatal attack occurred in July, 2003. Researcher Kirsty Brown (Some media outlets say Kristy) was dragged to her death by a leopard seal. A few less dangerous attacks have also occurred. British Antarctic Survey (BAS) protocol requires researchers to exit the water if a leopard seal is spotted.

white and black killer whale on blue pool
The orca remains the undisputed apex predator in Antarctic waters. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The seals are fierce but are definitely number two. Orcas are the most lethal predators in Antarctic waters. They prey on leopard seals. As noted recently, they even kill and eat blue whales. Far from sterile, Antarctic waters are teeming with life. Recently, researchers have found vast amounts of life in the cold waters. One discovery was a 92 square mile icefish hatchery. Icefish are a kind of fish specially adapted to life in the deep frigid sea. They even lack hemoglobin in their blood.

Published by ursusrising

long time writer and editor living in Los Angeles

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