During the Weddell seal pupping season in Erebus Bay, Weddell seals can be sighted in pupping colonies scattered throughout the study area. But they are not the only animal species encountered on top of the sea ice in this part of Antarctica. Their animal neighbors can include crabeater seals, emperor penguins, Adélie penguins, south polar skuas, kelp gulls, and snow petrals.
These two photos show a Weddell seal pup, Leptonychotes weddellii, on top of the ice and breathing at the surface of the icy Antarctic water. Weddells are true seals of the family Phocidae, and spend their entire lives in Antarctica. They are the southernmost breeding population of mammals on Earth, and can be found all around the coast of Antarctica.
Below is a crabeater seal, Lobodon carcinophaga, lounging on the ice near a Weddell seal. Crabeater seals are thought to be the most abundant seals on Earth, and are true seals that can be found all around the coast of Antarctica. They feed primarily on Antarctic krill, and have specialized teeth to assist them in straining krill from the water.
Among the bird species found in the Erebus Bay Weddell seal study area is the kelp gull, Larus dominicanus, a big gull of the Southern Hemisphere as seen in the photo below.
The south polar skua, Stercorarius maccormicki, in the photo below, is a large predatory bird that feeds on fish often stolen from other birds. This bird can often be seen feeding on Weddell seal birth placenta in the pupping colonies.
Emperor penguins, Aptenodytes forsteri, are the tallest and the heaviest of the penguin species and can dive deeper and longer than any other penguin. They breed in large colonies and are often seen in small groups traveling through the Weddell seal study area.
The smaller Adélie penguin, Pygoscelis adeliae, as seen in the photo below, also form large colonies around the coast of Antarctica. These birds can often be seen singly or in small groups traveling about the Erebus Bay Weddell seal study area.
- Mary Lynn Price