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Crabeater Seals















What is taxonomy?

Crabeater seals are the most numerous of the world's seals.  There are millions of crabeater seals.  After the pups are born, a male will join and defend the female, waiting for his chance to breed.  Crabeater seals can be found in large numbers but are more likely observed alone or in small groups.  A crabeater seal usually feeds at night, will spend 8-10 hours feeding, and will make over 100 dives.

Interesting Facts:

  • Why does the name "crabeater seal" seem very strange? Crabeater seals don't eat crab they eat krill!
  • The crabeater seal sucks the krill into its mouth!
  • After crabeater seals molt, they are brown or gray in color.  By the end of summer, the color fades, and they become white!
  • Crabeater seals are known to move great distances inland! A live male pup was discovered in December (remember, in Antarctica December is in the summer) on the Crevasse Valley Glacier, 113 km from open water and 920 meters above sea level!!

What should I know about crabeater seals?

Where do crabeater seals live?

Crabeater seals inhabit the pack ice zone surrounding Antarctica.  On rare occasions they may be found on the South African coasts, South American coasts, Australian and New Zealand coasts, and the islands that surround Antarctica. 

How many crabeater seals are there?

Although it was once thought that there may be over 15 million crabeater seals. There is currently no reliable estimate of the abundance of crabeater seals. An international group of scientists is currently collaborating to decide a good population estimate.

How can I identify crabeater seals?

Crabeater seals will weigh up to 500 pounds with the female being larger.  They will reach 7 feet in length.  At the end of summer they are almost white.  The teeth of crabeater seals may be the most specialized of any carnivore.  The crabeater seal may be the fastest of all the pinnipeds on ice, faster than a man can run.

What do crabeater seals eat?

Crabeater seals have one main food item, krill, which is an abundant shrimp-like crustacean that is found all around Antarctica.

How do crabeater seals have their young?

Female crabeater seals give birth to a single pup on the ice in the spring (September-December).  Soon after the birth an adult male crabeater will join the mother and pup.  He will protect both from predators and other males.  The pups are weaned in three weeks, but it is not known if this is natural or if the male forces the mother and pup apart.  When winter approaches and the amount of ice begins to increase, they separate and head northward.

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

Crabeater seals have been known to live for forty years.

The leopard seal and killer whales are known predators of the crabeater seal.

Where can I find more information about crabeater seals?

Go back.

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