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The Weddell Seal

July, 2021 | Wildlife

In our travels to Antarctica we often see seals, and one of the species we love encountering is the Weddell Seal.

Weddell Seals are the southernmost breeding animal in the world and are behaviourally adapted for Antarctica. Named after British captain James Weddell, these very vocal animals are identifiable by their brown or dark silver fur with lighter-coloured mottling on their bellies.

The conservation status of these mammals of least concern, and it is thought that there are over 800,000 of them in the world.

Weddell Seal

Weddell Seal

THE UNDERWATER LIFE
  • These gentle creatures spend much of their time below the Antarctica ice.
  • By swimming under ice they are able to avoid Orca and Leopard Seals, their main predators.
  • They can dive incredibly deep, up to 600 metres
  • Using their teeth, they open up air pockets in the ice above for breathing holes
  • Weddell Seals can stay under water for up to 45 minutes, sometimes even as long as 85 minutes if they are searching for a breathing hole
  • They have incredible vision as it often very dark beneath the ice
DIET AND FEEDING
  • They feed below the ice, diving beneath their prey then swimming upwards
  • They dine on cod, silverfish, krill, squid and other sea life
  • A feeding dive can take the seals 200-400 metres down and last anywhere from 5 to 25 minutes
  • The mother seals milk is one of the richest produced by any mammal
  • During the darker winter months they also use their whiskers to locate food
  • Weddell Seals will blow air to flush out fish from cracks in the ice to eat them
SING ME A SONG
  • Weddell Seals are very vocal and will sing while they are hauled out above the ice as well as underwater
  • Their songs can be heard above the ice as they are quite loud
  • These seals will assemble together around breathing holes in the ice
  • When the seals mate they are very noisy and the sound can be heard from above the ice
  • Weddell Seals are the most studied of any seal species, but despite this fact nothing is known about their ability to hear
LIFE ABOVE THE ICE
  • Females give birth to one pup per year. They are however, one of a few species that can give birth to twins
  • While mothers raise their pups they do not feed, and their pups will get fat on the rich milk while the mothers grow extremely thin
  • All the seals relax on the ice either to rest, moult or give birth
  • Weddell Seals do not migrate and usually remain within a few miles of where they were born

Interested in encountering these wonderful animals in Antarctica? Reach out to our team to learn more about our voyages any time!