Crabeater Seal (Lobodon carcinophaga)

Adults reach 2.6 m in length and weigh an estimated 200-300 kg. Neonates are thought to be at least 1.1 m and 20-40 kg. The mean age of sexual maturity in females varies from 2.5 to 4.2 years and these variations may be related to changes in food abundance. Births occur mainly during the second half of October.

The distribution of crabeater seals is tied to seasonal fluctuations of the pack ice. They can be found right up to the coast of Antarctica, as far south as McMurdo Sound, during late summer ice break-up. They occur in greatest numbers in the seasonally shifting pack ice surrounding the Antarctic continent. As vagrants they travel as far north as New Zealand and the southern coasts of Africa, Australia, and South America.

Crabeater seals feed primarily on Antarctic krill, Euphausia superba and 95% of their diet is made up of this species. Small amounts of fish and squid are also part of the diet. All of the post-canine teeth are ornate, with multiple accessory cusps that interlock to form a network for straining krill from the seawater. A ridge of bone on each mandible fills the gap in the mouth behind the last upper post-canine teeth and the back of the jaw, which helps prevent the loss of krill from the mouth when feeding. Crabeater faeces are routinely a pinkish red, from their krill diet and reddish stains are frequently seen on the ice near where they are hauled-out…

(read more: Encyclopedia of Life)

(photos: T - Liam Quinn; ML - The zoology of the voyage of the H.M.S. Erebus & Terror. v.1. London,E. W. Janson,1844-1875.; MR - Jerzystrzelecki; B - Gerald and Buff Corsi)

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