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Weddell Seals

Kingdom:

Animalia

Phylum:

Chordata

Class:

Mammalia

Order:

Carnivora

Family:

Phocidae

Genus:

Leptonychotes  

Species:

weddellii


What is taxonomy?

Weddell seals are found near the fast ice of the Antarctic continent, and some nearby islands.  The Weddell seals do not migrate very far.  Weddell seals usually return each year to within a few miles of where they were born.  They have a silver to dark mottled color and can weigh up to 1,200 pounds.  Weddell seals communicate with sound that can be heard both above and below the ice. 

Interesting Facts:

  • Weddell seals sometimes will blow air into cracks in the ice to scare out small fishes to eat!
  • The underwater calls of the Weddell seal are loud enough for a person on top of the ice can hear them!
  • Weddell seals can dive 2000 feet under the water!
  • Some Weddell seal pups are a golden color when born!
  • Scientists think that Weddell seals hunt fish by "back lighting" them. Diving deep and looking up through the water to more easily see their silhouette.
  • Weddell seals use their teeth to open and maintain breathing holes in the ice!

What should I know about Weddell seals!

Where do Weddell seals live?

Weddell seals are the southern most seal in the world.  Weddell seals live on the shore ice around Antarctica and nearby islands.

How many Weddell seals are there?

Although it was once thought that there may be over 1/4 million Weddell seals. There is currently no reliable estimate of the abundance of Weddell seals. An international group of scientists is currently collaborating to decide a good population estimate.

How can I identify a Weddell seal?

Weddell seals are dark gray with darker and lighter spots.  They can be 1,200 pounds in weight and 10 feet in length.  Weddell seals can be heard from on top of the ice.  Weddell seals do not migrate very far and will often be found within a few miles of where they were born.

What do Weddell seals eat?

Weddell seals eat Antarctic cod, Antarctic silverfish, cephalopods, crustaceans, and krill.

How do Weddell seals have their young?

Weddell seals give birth to one pup from September to October.  The pups are usually silver to golden in color and weigh about 50 pounds.  The mother and pup stay together for 5 or 6 weeks.  After 2 weeks the mother will take the pup into the water for its first swim. 

How long do Weddell seals live? How do they die?

Weddell seals have been known to live for thirty years.

The killer whale and leopard seals are the only predators of the Weddell seal.  Weddell seals are often protected from predators during the winter since both the killer whale and leopard seal cannot travel great distances under the ice.

Where can I find more information about Weddell seals?

Go back.


This portion of the NMML website is intended for a student audience and their educators.
Information within the education website should not be cited in scientific journals or publications.


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