The leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx), also referred to as the sea leopard, is the second largest species of seal in the Antarctic (after the southern elephant seal). It is most common in the southern hemisphere along the

Leopard Seal
Leopard Seal


South Pole




Mostly krill, squid, fish, and penguins, sometimes crabeater seals

Combat status

Defeated by the Walrus

coast of Antarctica and on most sub-Antarctic islands, but can also be found on the coasts of southern Australia, Tasmania, South Africa, New Zealand, Lord Howe Island, Tierra del Fuego, the Cook Islands, and the Atlantic coast of South America. It can live twenty-six years, possibly more.[3] Orcas and large sharks are the only natural predators of leopard seals.[4]

Along with all of the other earless seals, it belongs to the family Phocidae, and is the only species in the genus Hydrurga. The name hydrurga means "water worker" and leptonyx is the Greek for "small clawed"


The leopard seal is large and muscular, with a dark grey back and light grey on its stomach. Its throat is whitish with the black spots that give the seal its common name. Females are generally slightly larger than the males on average.[5] The overall length of this seal is 2.4-3.5 m (7.9-11.7 ft) and weight is from 200 to 591 kg (440-1302 lbs). They are about the same length as the northern walrus but usually less than half the weight.[6][7]

Like most carnivores, its front teeth are sharp, but its molars lock together in a way that allows them to sieve krill from the water, similar to the crabeater seal


The leopard seal is second only to the orca among Antarctica's top predators. Its canine teeth are 2.5 cm (1 in).[9] It feeds on a wide variety of creatures. Smaller seals probably eat mostly krill, but also squid and fish. Larger leopard seals probably switch from krill to more substantial prey, including king, Adelie and emperor penguins, and less frequently, other seals such as the crabeater seal.

Around the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia, the Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella) is the main prey. Other prey includes penguins and fish. Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba), southern elephant seal (Mirounga leonina) pups and seabirds other than penguins have also been found in leopard seal scats in small quantities.[10]

When hunting penguins, the leopard seal patrols the waters near the edges of the ice, almost completely submerged, waiting for the birds to enter the ocean. It is helped in this endeavor by the penguins themselves, which nearly always push one of their own into the water ahead of themselves. It kills the swimming bird by grabbing the feet, then shaking the penguin vigorously and beating its body against the surface of the water repeatedly until the penguin is dead. Previous reports stating the leopard seal skins its prey before feeding have been found to be incorrect. Lacking the teeth necessary to slice its prey into manageable pieces, it flails its prey from side to side to tear and rip it into smaller pieces.

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