Hydrurga – Leopard seal

The ends of the mouth are permanently curled upwards that look like a smile or a menacing grin

Named for its distinctively spotted coat resembling that of a terrestrial leopard, it is a formidable predator and one of the most striking marine mammals in the Antarctic ecosystem. Characterized by their slender and elongated bodies, these seals exhibit a dramatic contrast in coloration, with dark grey backs and silvery grey undersides adorned with a pattern of light and dark spots across their entire body.

Leopard Seals possess a set of unique physical adaptations that equip them for their role as efficient hunters. Their jaws are exceptionally flexible and capable of opening up to a 160-degree angle, which, combined with their sharply pointed front teeth and specially adapted molars, can employ a diverse range of feeding strategies. These dental adaptations enable Leopard Seals to efficiently prey upon various marine life, from the small and abundant Antarctic krill to larger mammals and birds.

Their diet is notably diverse, reflecting their opportunistic feeding habits. Antarctic krill constitute a significant portion of their diet, accounting for approximately 45% of their intake. However, they are also known to prey on other seal species, such as Weddell Seals, Crabeater Seals, Antarctic Fur Seals, penguins, various species of fish, and cephalopods. This predation plays a crucial role in maintaining the ecological balance within their Antarctic environment, controlling their prey population and influencing species distribution across the ecosystem.

Leopard Seals are known for their vocal behavior, particularly when in the water. Their repertoire of sounds includes growling noises, trills, low-frequency moans, and grunts, which are believed to play roles in communication, territory establishment, and possibly mating behaviors. These vocalizations add to the mystique of Leopard Seals, reflecting the complexity of their social interactions and behaviors beneath the icy waters of the Antarctic.