A juvenile leopard seal probably only
recently left its mother showing the wide gape (and current lack of
Adult leopard seal with the characteristic
Named for the spotting on its underside and the wide
gape that displays a mouth full of sharp teeth, the Leopard Seal is
one of the largest predators in Antarctica, smaller only than the killer
whale. Females are larger than males and average about 3m (10ft) long
and around 350kg (770lb). They appear more squat when on the surface
as in this picture on an ice floe, where they are nearly always seen,
only rarely coming ashore onto land. In the sea, they appear longer,
sleeker and almost snake-like in form and movements, though they swim
of course with fore and hind flippers.
Leopard seals are built for speed, they have a large
powerful head, a huge gape and a massive lower jaw. They frequent the
edge of the pack ice and in particular areas around penguin rookeries
all around Antarctica. They are fairly opportunistic as predators and
will east a wide variety of prey from krill to penguins to young crabeater
seals - their main prey. Their teeth are very much those of a carnivore,
though they are also partly adapted with three large cusps on the pre-molars
and molars that interlock and are also able to act as a strainer when
feeding on krill.
They are inquisitive and fearless, frequently approaching
small boats to investigate when their large "grin" and all of those
teeth they have can make them appear quite menacing.
Their way of dealing with penguins is quite gruesome.
Once caught and killed, the penguin is shaken violently from side to
side by the leopard seal until it is literally thrown out of its skin
and feathers for the seal to then swallow. Floating penguin skins in
the sea are a sure sign of leopard seals nearby.
Photo; © Paul Ward - Pentax equipment,
100mm lens, 35mm film, K64.
This picture may not be copied or
used in any manner without prior written permission.