Sunday, August 7, 2011

Life of Leopard Seal

Life of Sea | Leopard Seal (Hydrurga leptonyx) | Leopard seal is also called Sea leopard. It is the second largest seal after Southern elephant seal. This seal is included in genus Hydrurga, whicn means "water worker" and leptonyx is the Greek for "small clawed". Leopard seals are solitary animals that live in pack-ice surrounding the Antarctic continent. Some of them though prefer the warmer climates. Leopard seals have been identified in Australia and New Zealand where it is much warmer than the Antarctic.

Leopard seals are large and muscular. They have a dark grey back and light grey on its stomach. Their throat is whitish with the black spots that give them its common name. Males are generally slightly larger than the females on average. Leopard seals are easily identified by the designed for speed. They have slender body and the fore flippers long. The head is large and the jaws open widely revealing exceptionally long canines and unusually complex sharply pointed molars. Like the crabeater seals, Leopard seals have unusual teeth for straining krill from the water.

The diet of the Leopard seal is similar to others in many ways. They love krill, fish, and other items found in the waters. However, they are also the only species of seal that will also consume other species. They also love to eat penguins. They are fast moving on land so they have no trouble catching their desired prey either on land or in the water. They kill penguins and small seals by grabbing them with their feet. Then they will thrash them back and forth against the ground until they are dead. In the water they are able to swallow fish or to tear off large portions of big prey they find in there.

During the summer months, Leopard seal hunt among the pack ice surrounding the continent, spending almost all of its time in the water. In the winter, they can be found from north to the sub-Antarctic islands. Occasionally, individuals may be spotted on the southern coasts of South America, Australia, and New Zealand, and as far north as the Cook Islands. Juveniles are more often found in the north.

Leopard seal is a solitary creature and comes together in small groups only when it is time to mate. During the mating season, males and females make acoustic calls to each other over distances, with at least the males having individual variability in their vocalising sequence patterns. After a nine-month gestation, the female digs a hole in the ice, and gives birth to a single pup during the Antarctic summer. She protects the pup until it is able to fend for itself.

They are very quiet except for some grunting and growling noises. Leopard seal is bold, powerful and curious. In the water, there is a fine line between curiosity and predatory behavior, and it may 'play' with penguins that it does not intend to eat. The Leopard Seal is considered to be the most aggressive of all the species out there. They only live in small groups which is also quite different from other species of leopards. In fact, it is not uncommon to see them alone or only with one or two companions.

They only natural predators that the Leopard seals have are some species of whales. Therefore they do as they please both on land and in the water. There are not very high numbers left of Leopard seals which is why conservation efforts for them exist. There are approximately 250,000 of them. In the wild it is reasonable for one to live approximately 26 years. Due to their aggressive nature, Leopard seals known not to get too close to them. Many of them have been hunted though for sport as well to get rid of them due to their behaviors. There have been some reports of attacks from Leopard seals on humans while they are in the water. It is believed this is due to them feeling threatened rather than finding something that they are interested in eating. It is best not to be in the open waters where Leopard seals are known to live.

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