Weddell Seal (Leptonychotes wedelli)

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Antarctic seals

Antarctic seals

The top picture is of a juvenile Weddell seal  weaned from its mother about 2 or 3 months previously and already completely in control in its aquatic environment.  The scene a few months ago was rather different though. Weddell seal pups don't automatically realise that they can or should dive and the early attempts are amusing to watch. "Attempts" is probably the wrong word. What actually happens is that the mother pushes the pup into the water against its will. She then pushes its head under the water - again against its will. There is much coughing, spluttering and panic before the pup realises that it can hold its breath under the water and that this in fact does help!

The pups soon get the hang of it though and as adults will dive to up to 600 metres (2 000ft) or more staying under for up to an hour and going as much as 12 kilometers from the breathing hole. A typical feeding dive takes the seal to 200-400m and lasts for 5-25 minutes.  The second picture shows how unaffected by humans Antarctic wildlife is!

Photo; © Paul Ward