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Weddell Seal


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The Weddell seal is a large marine mammal that lives in Antarctic waters and on fast ice (ice anchored to land). It is a pinniped (related to the walrus and sea lion) that does not migrate. It can dive underwater for over an an hour, and has been seen at depths of 2,300 feet (700 m). This seal vocalizes noisily underwater, using a variety of calls to communicate with other Weddell seals. Most Weddell seal activity occurs at night; these seals are primarily nocturnal. (Classification: Order Carnivora, Family Phocidae, Subfamily Monachinae, Genus Leptonychotes, Species weddellii)

Anatomy: The Weddell seal has short, thick fur. It grows to be up to 10 feet (3 m) long and can weigh up to 1,000 pounds (450 kg). The whiskers (called vibrissae) help the seal's sense of touch. The V-shaped nostrils are closed in the resting state. Weddell seals use their large, strong, forward-pointing canine teeth to chew breathing holes in cracks in the ice. This seal can see well in dim light.

Diet: Weddell seals are carnivores (meat-eaters); they eat fish, squid, octopus, krill, and other small crustaceans. Seals don't chew their food; they swallow it in large chunks. They eat their food underwater.

Predators: Weddell seals are hunted by killer whales (orcas), leopard seals, and people (they are used as food for sled dogs).

Name: These seals were named for the British Antarctic explorer James Weddell, who commanded British expeditions into the Weddell Sea (which is also named for him).

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