What Do Seals Eat?

What Do Seals Eat?
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What Do Seals Eat? Seals are classified as semi-aquatic mammals, meaning they spend their times in water and on land. Studies indicate that these organisms spend only 20% of their time on the ground.

Seals are fin-footed and are thus classified in the same group as sea lions, and walruses. Though closely related, these three organisms hail from different taxonomic families.

Seals are carnivorous meaning their diet is composed of meat. Their diet includes mainly fish. They also eat penguins, octopuses, lobsters, salmons, eels, mackerel, and squids.

What Do Seals Eat?

Type of Seal Diet
Elephant Seal Rays, squid, fish, and small sharks.
Weddell Seal Silverfish, codfish, octopuses, small crustaceans, prawns, and other marine water creatures such as Salmons.
Ross Seal Squid, fish, mollusks, and other small marine invertebrates.
Crabeater Seal Mainly Krills.
Brown Fur Seal Mackerel, crustaceans, African penguins, sardines, anchovies, and gobies.
Leopard Seal Krills, Squids, small marine creatures, Adélie Penguins, Emperor penguins, gentoo penguins, Chinstrap penguins, Weddell seals, Crabeater seals, and Elephant seal pups.

Seals Diet by Types

Naturally, two groups of seals exist. One group is dubbed as true seals, which are also earless. The next group is referred to as fur seals. Examples of the true seals and the fur seals will be tackled in this section as well as their preferred habitats.

What Do Elephant Seals Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Carnivora Phocidae Mirounga Mirounga angustirostris

Elephant seal dives up to a depth of 1000-2000 feet to find their prey, which includes rays, squid, fish, and small sharks.

What do Elephant Seals eat?

  • 2 species of the elephant seal exist, and they include the southern and the northern elephant seal. These names are given to distinguish them based on where they are found.
  • Elephant seals get their name from the fact that they are enormous when considering their size and that they have long-noses which resembles that of elephants.
  • Elephants seals are found in the marine waters, especially next to beaches and remote areas of the mainland.

What Do Weddell Seals Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Carnivora Phocidae Leptonychotes Leptonychotes weddellii

Weddell seals diet includes silverfish, codfish, octopuses, small crustaceans, prawns, and other creatures found in the marine waters.

What do Weddell Seals eat?

  • Weddell seal is enormous compared to other seal types.
  • Both males and females of Weddell seals can grow to lengths of about 3 meters and a weight of 400-500 kg.
  • Weddell seals can be found below the Antarctic ice most of the time.

What Do Ross Seals Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Carnivora Phocidae Ommatophoca Ommatophoca rossii

Information on what the Ross seal eats is limited. However, reports indicate that this seal mostly eats squid, fish, mollusks, and other small invertebrates like krill.

What do Ross Seals eat?

  • The Ross seal is notable for its small, broad head and its shorter snout compared to other seals.
  • Ross seals habitat includes marine and bordering terrestrial lands (icecaps).

What Do Crabeater Seals Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Lobodon carcinophagus

Contrary to their name, the crabeater seal does not depend mainly on crabs. Their primary diet is made of krill.

What do Crabeater Seals eat?

  • Crabeater seal grows to a length of about 2.2 to 2.6 meters and a weight of about 200-300 kilograms.
  • Crabeater seals inhabit both marine waters and bordering terrestrial land lined by ice caps.

What Do Brown Fur Seals Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Carnivora Otariidae Arctocephalus Arctocephalus pusillus

Brown Fur Seal’s diet includes mackerel, crustaceans, African penguins, sardines, anchovies, and gobies.

What do Brown Fur Seals eat?

  • The brown fur seals can be found in the rocky and sandy beaches of South Africa and Australia.
  • This type of seal is the largest of all the fur seals.

What Do Leopard Seals Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Carnivora Phocidae Hydrurga Hydrurga leptonyx

Leopard seals mainly feed on krills, squids, fish and a wide array of sea creatures. Adult Leopard seals eat substantial prey such as emperor penguins, gentoo penguins, and chinstrap penguins.

What do Leopard Seals eat?

  • Leopard seals also consume Weddell seal, Crabeater seal, and elephant seal pups.
  • Leopard seals are also known as ‘Fur Seal Pups‘.
  • In the Island of South Georgia, leopard seals eat Antartic fur seal, penguins, seabirds.

How Do Seals Hunt?

Their environment helps seals find their prey.

  • For instance, when they are feeding below the ice, one tactic they use to hunt their prey is diving beneath it and then ambushing it.
  • Air also comes in handy to help Weddell seals to hunt. They blow air into cracks in the ice an action which surprises small fish which respond by flight. When this happens, the seals position themselves to devour their victims.
  • Another hunting strategy some species employ (with the example of crabeater seal) is, they swim through a group of seals while opening their mouths.

When Do Seals Eat?

Seals can display nocturnal or diurnal activity. As a result, their foraging and eating behavior can be evident both during the day or at night, depending on individual species.

How Often Do Seals Eat?

How often seals eat depend on numerous factors, one aspect being molting.

  • During this process, some seals eat less food while others opt to fast completely.
  • On regular occasions/periods, adult seals consume about 4-6% of their body weight every day. Hence, they must eat as much and as often as they can to realize this daily intake requirement.

What Eats Seals?

What eats Seals? Orcas

Examples of organisms that feed on seals include orcas, other seals (mostly leopard seals), and sharks. Polar bears also feed on seals as well as killer whales.

Where Do Seals Fit in the Animal Food Chain?

Being at the apex of their food chain, seals have an essential role to play in the marine ecosystem.

  • These large marine mammals feed on a vast range of organisms, thus maintaining the existence of an ecological balance.
  • Seals also provide (bearded seal) food to creatures like polar bears, thus promoting their survival.

Cite this article as: "What Do Seals Eat?," in Bio Explorer by Jack Kirsten, March 25, 2019, https://www.bioexplorer.net/what-do-seals-eat.html/.

Key References

  • “Facts About Seals & Sea Lions | Live Science”. Accessed August 25, 2019. Link.
  • “Elephant Seals”. Accessed August 25, 2019. Link.
  • “The Marine Mammal Center : Northern Elephant Seal”. Accessed August 25, 2019. Link.
  • “Weddell Seal | National Geographic”. Accessed August 25, 2019. Link.
  • “IUCN Red List of Threatened Species”. Accessed August 25, 2019. Link.
  • “ADW: Ommatophoca rossii: INFORMATION”. Accessed August 25, 2019. Link.
  • “Crabeater Seals ~ MarineBio Conservation Society”. Accessed August 25, 2019. Link.
  • “South African Fur Seal – Ocean Connections”. Accessed August 25, 2019. Link.
  • “POV: Why Are Leopard Seals Eating So Many Fur Seal Pups?”. Accessed August 25, 2019. Link.

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