Antarctic Mammals: Crabeater Seal

Last month, I finished the Antarctic Birds-series on my blog. But of course, there is much more to see on the frozen continent. So time for the next series: the Antarctic Mammals. Now, there are no land mammals at all on Antarctica, so this series will only cover marine mammals. Today the first: the Crabeater Seal.

Crabeater Seal

The Crabeater Seal is the most common seal in Antarctic waters. And not only in Antarctic waters, but they might be the most abundant seal in the world. Contrary to its name, it mainly feeds on krill, like most of the marine mammals and birds do in those waters. It has a bit a dog-like face and a fairly uniform brownish colour that can change a bit over the season (and when it dries up or gets wet).

The Crabeater Seal (front) has usually a much more uniform colour compared to the Weddell Seal (back).

The Crabeater Seal has a circumpolar distribution, but is only found in Antarctic waters. It is by far the most common seal we see on our trips to the Antarctic Peninsula and we regularly see groups being hauled out on icebergs or iceflows. The larges groups I’ve seen was several hundred spread out on the sea ice, but groups of up to ten animals are more common.

Crabeater Seals on an iceberg

At the moment, the Crabeater Seal does not seem to be threatened, but accurate population estimates do not excist (somewhere between 5 and 50 million) and a population trend is not known. Possible threats could be the overharvest of krill and a changing habitat due to climate change.

A group of Crabeater Seals swimming in between some icebergs.

Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.

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