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What do seals eat?

Seals are marine mammals that inhabit most coastal areas of the world, with the exception of tropical areas, although there are more exceptions. They are carnivorous animals and their type of prey will depend on the geographical area they inhabit, being able to hunt from fish to other species of seals. They are capable of swimming long distances and diving very deep to reach some prey thanks to their hydrodynamic body. And they are endowed with strong teeth that allow them to catch large prey. Likewise, the ways in which these animals hunt are similar in most species, although some may vary their hunting techniques.

If you want to know what seals eat and other details about their diet, don’t miss this AnimalWised article where we tell you all about it.

Seal feeding

Seals are carnivorous animals that base their diet on capturing animal prey. Being a marine mammal, it finds its food in water and will depend on its abundance in the areas they frequent to hunt. Now, what exactly do seals eat? It could be said that, in general, the basis of their diet is composed of:

  • fishes
  • squid
  • octopus
  • other cephalopods
  • crustaceans

Likewise, many species that live in coastal areas and close to humans, take the opportunity to feed on fishing discards.

On the other hand, due to the indiscriminate fishing of many species of fish, seals are often forced to hunt other types of prey, even to hunt smaller seals. Thus, depending on the species, they can hunt penguins, bird eggs, and even small sharks in the case of species living in the northern hemisphere. Likewise, beyond being marine animals, some species can venture into freshwaters to catch river fish.

How much do seals eat?

These animals spend many hours a day looking for their food, since they need a large amount daily and are capable of ingesting more than 7 kg of food in a day. This is very important since about 5% of its weight is made up of food.

How do seals hunt?

Phocids, as seals are also known, are animals that spend most of their time in the water and it is where they look for their food. They have the ability to dive to depths of more than 600 meters. As is the case with the Weddell seal ( Leptonychotes weddellii ). And to swim long distances to capture their prey. Although others prefer to stay at depths of no more than 4 meters to look for food.

Once they catch their prey with their strong and powerful teeth, they swallow it whole. Since these animals do not chew. But instead, tear their food into smaller pieces. But how do seals find their prey to hunt? They have highly developed senses of vision and hearing, which makes it easier for them to search for food, for which they also use their limbs that, similar to fins, allow them to swim and move in the water as if they were fish. . To this is added that they have whiskers or vibrissae that fulfill tactile sensory functions and that also make it easier for them to find prey so that they are a vital tool when they are submerged to great depths and the sunlight is scarce.

What and how do leopard seals eat?

We highlight the leopard seal hunting technique for being different from that of many other species of seals. Thus, the leopard seal ( Hydrurga leptonyx ), stays in the water near the edges of the ice shelves or the coast, where the penguins congregate. Once one is thrown into the water, the leopard seal swims rapidly until it is captured, dragged out of the water, and consumed on land. This species is endowed with very long canine teeth that are perfect for retaining prey, while its molars act as a filter. So that, when closed, they can filter krill, another food with which they complement their diet. In addition, this species is also capable of hunting out of water. Its favorite prey is penguin species present in Antarctica, although it can also hunt other smaller seals.

On the other hand, other species, such as the sea elephants ( Mirounga angustirostris ), are capable of descending to depths of around 2,000 meters to search for food, being able to stay underwater for several minutes.

What do baby seals eat?

When they are born, baby seals are unable to capture their own food and, like other mammals, need their mother’s milk to survive. But unlike other species, seals’ mother’s milk is extremely high in fat, with a caloric composition of 50%, which allows the baby seal to grow faster and survive for long periods in the absence of the mother.

During the first days, the mother takes care of suckling the baby and remains by her side so that it can feed in quantity and accumulate energy. The lactation period can last from 4 to about 50 days. Depending on the species, and once they are large enough and are weaned. They are able to dive and swim in search of food.

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