Leopard Seals in the Antarctic Seas

February 19th, 2010 at 9:48 am (AST) by Jake Richter

There are two major predators (besides man) in the seas of the Antarctic: Orcas (Killer Whales) and Leopard Seals.

We’ve seen two pods of orcas so far (more on the second pod later), and had a few encounters with leopard seals, which is what the focus of this post is about.

Penguins are mainstay of the leopard seal diet, and thus near penguin colonies is where you’re most likely to find leopard seals. In fact, yesterday afternoon, a group of folks saw a leopard seal attack and eat two Chinstrap penguins (one at a time, in sequence).

We have seen leopard seals twice so far on our trip, and heard of a third set of encounters (including a punctured Zodiac). Leopard seals are large – 8-10 feet long for the ones we’ve seen, and very threatening looking when you see them up close, as they have very reptilian shaped heads, and demonic looking reddish eyes. Of course, Macaroni penguins have red eyes too, and still manage to look cute, but that’s a different story.

Below are a series of photos I have collected over the last several days of leopard seals to help give you some idea of what they look like.

A female leopard seal scouts out our Zodiac - here she doesn't look big but she was over 8 feet long

A female leopard seal scouts out our Zodiac - here she doesn't look big but she was over 8 feet long

A leopard seal gets its name from the spots on it sleek skin

A leopard seal gets its name from the spots on it sleek skin

Leopard seals are very intimidating with their reptilian heads and features and red eye - here the nostrils are closed

Leopard seals are very intimidating with their reptilian heads and features and red eye - here the nostrils are closed

The same leopard seal with nostrils flared and even redder looking eyes

The same leopard seal with nostrils flared and even redder looking eyes

Leopard seals are also quite dexterous and can leap from the water as seen here

Leopard seals are also quite dexterous and can leap from the water as seen here

The above images are available in larger form on Flickr here.

 

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3 Responses to “Leopard Seals in the Antarctic Seas”

  1. Martyn Day Says:

    Great shots, what is your Camera set up?

  2. Jake Richter Says:

    This was shot with a Nikon D300s with a Sigma 18-250mm lens. Details are in the JPG files if you have a JPEG header analyzer. Or, if you go to Flickr you can see the camera details for the photos in detail there.

    For example, here is a link to the meta data for the seal image with the flared nostrils:


    http://www.flickr.com/photos/jakerichter/4370460408/meta/

  3. The Traveling Richters - Learning by Exploring Travel, Food, Culture, Adventure, and More… » Blog Archive » More Leopard Seals in the Antarctic Says:

    […] of leopard seals, most of whom were resting on an ice floe in the middle of the bay. You may recall my post about the leopard seals we had previously encountered, but all of those were in the […]