Leopard Seal Essay

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The newest circumpolar estimate of the total population of leopard seals estimates them at more than 35,000 individuals, however this is most likely an understatement, as they have a circumpolar distribution with latitudes between 50°S and 80°S (Danco). Considering they are a widespread species, it is incredibly tough and costly to consistently attempt to research their population number. Leopard seals have an incredible range of movement with vagrants and immature individuals observed in places much farther than the Antarctic north such as Australia, South America, New Zealand, and South Africa (spatial). Vagrants consist of Subantarctic sightings have been seen throughout winter, usually peaking in August or September but are absent from …show more content…
The foraging ecology of leopard seals has been well-documented by various methods such as collecting faeces, observing predatory behavior, and examining stomach contents (Abundance). Leopard seals usually prey on warm-blooded species and prey also differs according to sex or age classes (Danco). Juvenile seals normally feed on krill, while older seals consume penguins, seals, and other species (Hunting). Generally, prey includes cephalopods, penguins, fish, crustaceans, other seals such as Southern Elephant, Fur seals, and Crabeater seals, and krill, which has been found to be the primary prey during the winter (Abundance, IUCN). However, the importance and prevalence of prey depends on the season and the location that leopard seals reside …show more content…
Direct effects can be categorized as rising sea levels, reduced ice, and changes in water temperature. Indirect effects can be categorized as changes in abundance, range of migration, distribution, prey availability, community, timing of breeding, the composition of competitors and predators, and additional influence to diseases. Three responses can be made by species in relation to climate change. First, species can change their geographical distribution to one that is more in tune with their original environment. Second is that species will remain where they are however, the species will attempt to adapt to the environment by plastic response such as timing of growth and breeding, or by genetic response such as an increase in the threshold of heat tolerance. Third is extinction. It has been found that there is a negative interaction between sea-ice extent and distance to coastline. Leopard seals spent relatively longer periods of time near the coastline when the sea-ice extent was low. Despite their ability to disperse beyond their given sea-ice extent, leopard seals are limited in their habitat due to sea-ice coverage, and evidently spend more time on the coastline. If the area they get stuck in becomes endangered, they will ultimately only have the option of adapting to their new environment by plastic response or genetic response, or become

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