Antarctic fur seals live in a zone known as the Antarctic Convergence, an area of water between the cold waters of the true Antarctic and the more temperate waters further north. This area is rich in krill, one of the main food sources for them along with fish and squid.
Fur seals are cute creatures. They are one of the smallest seal species and are closely related to sea lions. Like sea lions, they are able to walk on all fours. They can turn their rear flippers forward, allowing them to walk surprisingly well. The fastest fur seals can reach an impressive 20 kilometers per hour on land. They are also the only seal species in the Antarctic with visible ears, making them easy to identify.
During the height of the historic sealing industry, fur seals were hunted almost to extinction for their prized fur and oil. Unlike other seals, they rely on their thick coats for warmth rather than copious layers of fat, which made them a prime target in the fur trade. Thankfully, their numbers have recovered and the population is now more than four million. Human threats to the fur seal population still exist, including from commercial fishing. Their natural predators, meanwhile, include sharks and killer whales. Leopard seals also prey on fur seal pups.
Antarctic fur seals tend to be solitary by nature, apart from during mating season, which occurs between November and January. Males can become highly aggressive during this time, often fighting with rivals to establish their territory, which can contain about 10 females. Once its territory is established, a male fur seal will stay on land to protect its territory, sometimes for up to two months without going to the water to feed. Females nurse their newborn pups for about four months. The pups soon learn to swim, after which they leave the breeding grounds and take to the water.
Other Antarctica Wildlife
Adélie Penguin / Chinstrap Penguin / Emperor Penguin / Gentoo Penguin / Macaroni Penguin / Crabeater Seal / Elephant Seal / Leopard Seal / Ross Seal / Weddell Seal / Blue Whale / Fin Whale / Humpback Whale