Leopard Seal

Leopard Seal

Scientific Classification

Common Name
leopard seal
Genus Species
Hydrurga leptonx

Fast Facts

Leopard seals have a long, slender body and a spotted coat. They have huge heads with enormous jaws.
Male: 2.8 to 3.3 m (9.1 to 10.7 ft.) long
Female: 2.9 to 3.6 m (8.45 to 11.7 ft.), with very large animals possibly reaching 3.8 m (12.4 ft.)
Male: Up to 300 kg (660 lbs.)
Female: 260 kg (572 lbs.) to upwards of 500 kg (1,100 lbs.)
Leopard seals are well known for preying upon penguins; however, their diet is in reality highly varied and changes with seasonal and local abundance of prey. Leopard seals will consume krill, fish, squid, penguins, seabirds, and juvenile seals including crabeater, Southern elephant and fur seals.
Approximately 11 months; with about 1.6 months delayed implantation; pups are 1.0 to 1.6 m (3 to 5 ft.) in length and weigh 30 to 35 kg (66 to 77 lbs.) at birth
Estral Period
Female estrous occurs at or shortly after weaning.
Nursing Duration
Pups are probably weaned at 4 weeks old.
Sexual Maturity
Male:  4.5 years
Female: 4 years
Life Span
26 or more years
Leopard seals are widely distributed in Antarctic and sub-Antarctic waters of the Southern Hemisphere, occurring from the coast of the Antarctic continent northward throughout the pack ice and at most sub-Antarctic islands.
Leopard seals haul out on ice and on land, often preferring ice floes near shore when they are available.
Global: Currently a widespread and abundant species . The latest studies estimate a population of at least 35,000 individuals but that estimate is probably low.
IUCN: Least concern
CITES: Not listed
USFWS: Not listed

Fun Facts

  1. Leopard seals belong to the scientific order Pinnipedia, which includes seals, sea lions, and walruses.
  2. Seals differ from sea lions in a number of ways, including having no visible earflaps.
  3. Antarctic seals tend to have longer, more pointed foreflippers than northern phocids.
  4. The leopard seal is named for its spotted coat pattern.
  5. Leopard seals have uniquely shaped cheek teeth that allow them to strain krill out of seawater.
  6. An impressive hunter, a hungry leopard seal may burst through a spot of ice near a penguin rookery in an attempt to grasp a penguin chick above.
  7. It may take as little as 4 to 7 minutes for a leopard seal to consume an Adélie penguin.
  8. The killer whale is the only known predator of leopard seals.

Ecology and Conservation

At sea and on the ice, Leopard Seals tend to be solitary.

Leopard Seals depend on sea ice for reproduction and at some time in the future they could be adversely affected by a reduction in sea ice due to continued climate warming.

Antarctic seals, including the crabeater, leopard, Weddell, Ross, Southern elephant, and Antarctic fur seals, are protected by the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals.


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