Thursday, June 21, 2012

Life of Weddell Seal


Life of Sea | Weddell Seal (Leptonychotes weddellii) | Weddell seal is a relatively large and abundant real seal with a circumpolar distribution around Antarctica. They live further south on the planet than any other mammal. Although most of the ice-loving seals prefer the ice, Weddell seals are found on near-shore fast ice. The seal population is estimated at 800,000 around the Antarctic continent. Weddell seal was discovered and named in the 1820s during expeditions led by James Weddell, British sealing captain, the parts of the Southern Ocean is now known as the Weddell Sea. 


Scientific classification
Kingdom:     Animalia
Phylum:     Chordata
Class:     Mammalia
Order:     Carnivora
Suborder:     Pinnipedia
Family:     Phocidae
Tribe:     Lobodontini
Genus:     Leptonychotes, Gill, 1872
Species:     L. weddellii

Weddell seals are about 2.5-3.5 m long and weigh between 400-600 kg. Male weigh is less than female. Male usually weigh about 500 kg or less. Male and female Weddell seals are generally about the same size, but females can be slightly larger.  However, male seals tend to have a thicker neck and a wider head and snout than the females. Weddell seal face is compared with that of a cat's mouth as a consequence of a short line, and similarities in the structure of the nose and whiskers. Weddell seal grows a thin coat around their entire body except for small areas around the flippers. The color and pattern of the coat varies, often fade to a duller color as the seal ages. Adults are generally brown, with lighter abdominal stomach. They are mottled with large dark and light spots on the belly are silvery. 


Weddell seals gather in small groups around cracks and holes in the ice. These animals are also found in large groups on the ice on the continent. In the winter months, they remain in the water to avoid snowstorms, with only their heads stabbing through breathing holes in the ice. This seal is often observed lying on his side, and on land. They are very docile and peaceful animals and can be easily accessed. Weddell seal is known for its very deep dives, which can reach 700 meters. They can also stay underwater for about 80 minutes. Such deep dives involve foraging sessions, but also looking for cracks in the ice sheets that could lead to new breathing holes. 


Weddell seals feed mainly on fish Antarctica, and has some unique hunting behavior. They have been observed blowing air into cracks in the sea ice ceiling to flush fish. They are stealth hunters, and "sneak" a fish of only 3 cm. They have extraordinary vision, and are also known to hunt Antarctic cod by silhouette against the sea ice. They can also remain submerged for a long time, like 73 minutes in one case, and observed traveling to and from a hole 3 km. Weddell seals are not a high risk of predation because of their preference for the fast ice and heavy ice regions, but some are attacked by Orca (killer whales) and to a lesser extent by leopard seals, especially in spring and summer when the ice. 


Weddell seal has a shorter lifespan than most other pinnipeds. On average, Weddell seal lives for 20 years, compared with an average life expectancy of 40 years for most other seals. This is because Weddell seals live under the Antarctic sea ice in the winter next continental Antarctica by scraping the ice with his teeth. As a result of wear of the teeth over time. As soon as a Weddell seal teeth are worn down to a certain level, the seal is not able to eat, and ultimately to the death starves. Weddell seals are hunted in the past, to a minor extent, for their meat for sled dogs. They are not widely commercially hunted because they are not readily accessible to hunters to seal.

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