Leopard Seals are the second largest species of seals in the Antarctic. Near the top of the Antarctic food chain, Orcas are their only natural predator. Leopard seals can live to 26 years and more.
Large and muscular, bearing dark grey backs and light grey stomachs, their throats are whitish with the black spots which give the seals their name. Females are typically larger than the males, about 10 to 11.5 feet (3 to 3.5 meters) in length, weighing 800 to 880 pounds (370 to 400 kilograms). The bulls are generally about 9 feet (2.8 meters) long and 700 pounds (320 kilograms).
Although they’re true seals and swim with their hind limbs, they have powerful highly developed forelimbs similar to a sea lion, giving them a maneuverability similar to sea lions and fur seals.
Leopard seals are shallow water hunters, and don’t dive deep like other seals of the Antarctic Weddell seals, Ross seals and Elephant seals, which can dive to 1000 feet (300 meters) in search of squid. Leopard seals have unusually loose jaws that can open more than 160 degrees allowing them to bite larger prey. Their heads are more similar to a mammal-like ‘reptile’ than that of a mammal.
Their front teeth are razor sharp, while their molars lock together in a manner that allows them to sieve krill from the water. Their sense of eyesight and smell are very keen. Their streamlined bodies enable the seals to move swiftly through the water, making them a formidable predator.
Paul Nicklen, reporting for National Geographic stated that he expected this 12 foot (4 meter) long female to flee with her catch of a live penguin chick, but dropped it on his camera instead. She opened her mouth and engulfed the camera and most of his head, and reacted with aggressive behavior towards him for 45 minutes, then relaxed and returned the next day in search of him.