ECOSYSTEM CHANGE IN ANTARCTICA

- foraging behaviour of the leopard seal

Leopard seals have an extended food transit time (relative to other pinnipeds) more similar to terrestrial carnivores, perhaps an adaptation to cope with the range of prey types consumed.

Leopard seals are not restricted to preying upon weaning crabeater seals as they prey upon crabeater seals into summer, well after the time that the crabeater seal pups have weaned.

Individual leopard seals favour specific hunting strategies when hunting Adelie penguins. Where some individuals used ambush-hunt strategies (see picture) capturing prey by stealth, others hunted with speed chasing in open water and under thin ice (see video of seal swimming at speed), others stalked prey patrolling the edge of the ice.

Food transit times in captive leopard seals Hydrurga leptonyx

Summer diet of leopard seals Hydrurga leptonyx in Prydz Bay Eastern Antarctica

Predation of Adelie penguins Pygoscelis adeliae by leopard seals Hydrurga leptonyx in Prydz Bay Antarctica

The leopard seal as the ambush hunter - to blend in with the environment (see the picture) the leopard seal lies like a crocodile, motionless, coiled in an S-shape, submerged in the shallows between rocks and ice floes. The seal faces out to sea at a penguin landing beach. As penguins approach the seal sprung forwards to capture birds.

Photo by Lisa Trotter

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FORAGING ECOLOGY

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FORAGING ECOLOGY