Created on: December 17, 2012 Last Updated: January 03, 2013
The Antarctic Continent is the most inhospitable place on the planet and the most devoid of life. After all, the warmest temperature ever recorded at the South Pole is just 10 degrees. Even the thickest fur is bound to fail under conditions like that and besides, what is there to eat?
With next to no vegetation for plant-eaters, there can be no meat for carnivores and thus it is that the very few mammals and birds which frequent the South Pole are connected one way or another with the
Pinnipeds or seals are major players in the Antarctic. All have different ecological niches and as such rarely compete with one another. All are fascinating creatures.
The crab eater seal is the most numerous of the Antarctic seals with a population estimated at well over a million. It lives mainly in the waters surrounding Antarctica and on the nearby ice, and on a few of the sub Antarctic islands as well. Dubbed “crab eater” it really feeds on small fish or krill which it uses its highly specialized teeth to strain from a mouth full of sea water.
Crab eater seals are 7 to 8 feet long and weigh about 400 lbs. Orca and leopard seals prey upon them and few Crab eaters reach maturity unmarked by the latter predator.
Aptly named, the Leopard seal is an apex predator of the far south feeding primarily on warm-blooded prey like penguins and other birds and on sick, old or very young seals of other species. Sometimes they will take fish, squid and even krill as a dietary supplement. Leopard seals are about 10 feet long and weigh over 800 lbs. They feed exclusively in the water, and like to ambush their prey. Their name Leopard seal derives not only from their fierce hunting habits but also from their spotted coats.
Champion divers the Weddell seal subsists on krill, skates, squid, and fish, being especially fond of cod. To pursue its prey it can dive for over an hour, reaching to depths of 2000 feet or more. A large seal of 1200 lbs. plus it is often the target of hungry Orca.
The biggest seal of all the elephant seal is also the largest carnivore, surpassing the polar bear and tiger for that honor. They can easily top 16 feet in length and a big one can weigh 5 tons.
Elephant seals spend 10 months or so of each year in the open sea, pursuing squid and fishes, small sharks, skates and rays. Immature ones may be targeted by Orca and large sharks. They come on land only to mate and molt.
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Animals that live in the Antarctic
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