Crabeater Seal

(Lobodon carcinophagus)

Crabeaters are one the most successful larger mammals. Their estimated population counts forty million seals. They seldom come ashore. They live on the shelf ice and make long journeys around Antarctica. Crabeaters can be recognized by their silver coloured fur. Female crabeaters can reach three meters and can weigh 300 kg. The males are smaller. Crabeaters don’t eat crab (by the way crab does not occur on Antarctica), but adore krill and some fish and squid. To catch krill crabeaters have a special set of teeth. There are several tubercles on each tooth with spaces between them that cut deeply into the tooth. The main cusps of upper and lower teeth fit perfectly together. When the crabeater seal closes its mouth, the only spaces are those between the tubercles. This arrangement probably serves as a sieve through which to strain krill, their primary food source. All crabeaters together eat 63 million ton krill a year.

Crabeater pups are born between September and November. During the first four weeks they are nursed by their mother. In this period they gain quickly weight: from 20 to 113 kg. The male defends meanwhile his territory.
Even though there are so many crabeater seals, scientist don’t know much about these animals. Crabeater seals live most of the time under the shelf ice which makes observation difficult.

Crabeater Seal – Photo unknown

Geographic Distribution

Crabeater Seal Habitat