The leopard seal is so-called because of its spotted markings and leopard-like ferocity. They live mainly in the sea and on the pack ice around the fringes of the Antarctic ice pack.

Hunting and feeding

Penguins have good cause to fear the leopard seal, which is a solitary and fierce predator, equipped with powerful jaws and long, inward curving, pointed teeth. The seal will 'patrol' the edges of the ice, under the water, keeping an eye on the surface for penguins. Penguins often show a marked reluctance to be among the first of a group to enter the water in case there is a leopard seal lurking about.

If the seal spots a penguin, it will attack at great speed, hoping to take the penguin by surprise. It may have to give chase, and, with luck, the seal manages to grab its exhausted victim in its fiercesome jaws. The seal shakes the penguin vigorously to tear off portions of flesh.

Although penguins are the leopard seal's usual prey, about half their diet consists of krill (tiny shrimp-like animals). The seal's teeth are saw-like and very sharp, ideal for tearing off flesh - but also useful as a sieve when catching krill. Fish, squid and seabirds are also eaten on occasion. A few leopard seals sometimes eat other seals, usually the smaller crab seal.

Read More: Breeding

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