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Weddell Seal

Weddell Seal
Weddell Seal
Dianna Calder antarctica.go

Weddell Seals are very large seal measuring approximately 10 feet and weighing as much as 1200 pounds. They are a mammal who lives below the Antarctic ice. When in a group they are known as a pod, and are very docile in nature making it easy for humans to approach. The main predators for the seals are Orca's and Leopard seals, which they are often able to avoid because of their ability for swimming under the ice. These seals are usually found within a few miles of their birthplace and seldom migrate. Their favorite meal is cod and silverfish however they are carnivorous and often eat octopus crustaceans and other ocean animals. They will often swim below their prey allowing them to see them easily by the silhouette that is seen on the ice above. The Weddell Seal can use air they have collected by blowing it into cracks in the ice above causing the fish to flee making for an easy meal. These animals are amazing they can dive up to 2000 feet and remain submerged for as long as 45 minutes at a time, they do however need to surface in order to breathe. If there are no air holes available the Weddell Seal will use their teeth to open and maintain their own personal air hole.

Like other seals they pull out onto the ice where they rest, molt and have their pups. The females do not begin breeding until they are six years old. These pups are normally born in September or October and are silver in color and can swim at about two weeks of age. When the pups are firstborn they appeared to be nothing more than skin and flippers with very little body content, this changes during the first few weeks of life as the pup begins to balloon out as the mother loses her excess weight from feeding her pup, during this nursing phase the mother seal does not eat. The milk from the Weddell Seal is about 60% fat which is one of the richest milk produced by any mammal and is responsible for the pups rapid weight gain. These pups are weaned at about seven weeks of age.

Interestingly the mother will shove the pup into the water off the ice, holding it underwater while it spits, sputters, and coughs and reaches a state of pure panic until it finally realizes it can breathe under the water. The pups soon get the hang of this and are swimming on their own shortly thereafter.

Adult Weddell Seals are gray or black in color with a white underbelly, and their head is small in contrast to the size of the body. They are very vocal, and can be heard on top of the ice even when they themselves are below.

The Weddell Seal belongs to family known as Phocidae, also known as true seals. The Harp Seal is the most commonly known in this family. The Weddell Seal have been sighted in New Zealand and Australia and are the most southerly ranging mammal that permanently lives in the continent. These animals have an unusual ability for navigation which must be highly accurate for them to find their holes in the ice during the darkest of winter months. Their teeth wear down from maintaining their holes over the year's making it impossible to keep their air whole maintained or to feed. Because of the damage to their teeth these seals only survive for about 18 years, where other seals often live twice that long.

Because the Weddell Seal spends most of its time in the water under the ice, and often there is a layer of snow covering the ice and can become very dark, which is why they have very large eyes? The male Weddell Seal guards the holes of the female while she's giving birth, and will defend the territory against other males in the area, because the female is ready to breed again soon after birthing the pup.

In island on Ross sea known as White Island holds the most southerly population of the Weddell Seal. These seals are literally trapped along the Ross Ice Shelf. It is believed that between 5100 years ago a large chunk of the permanent ice shelf broke off, trapping them in as it reformed behind, permanently trapping them in the secluded area.