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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Weddell Seal Leptonychotes weddellii

The Weddell seal is found around the entire coast of Antarctica and is the world’s most southerly marine mammal. Its head looks small in proportion to its body, and it has a short, dense coat of bluish black fur, with light streaks on the sides. It feeds mainly on fish, diving to depths of 2,000 ft (600 m), and is able to stay underwater for up to an hour. Weddell seals are so well adapted to life in cold water that they bask on ice in preference to bare ground. They breed on ice, and their winter survival depends on keeping open their breathing holes. They gouge these out with their canine teeth, starting when the ice is thin, and maintaining them as the ice thickens, to depths of up to 6 ft (2 m).

Weddell Sealzoom image
  • Order Carnivora
  • Length 8–9 ft (2.5–2.9 m)
  • Weight 880–1,300 lb (400–600 kg)
  • Habitat Polar waters around sea ice
  • Distribution Southern Ocean, extending northward to South Georgia
Weddell Seal habitat mapzoom image