Leopard seals are the third-largest seal on the planet, with adults being between 2.8 – 3.3 meters and weighing an impressive 350kg.
These seals can be found mainly around Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic islands feeding on krill, fish, octopuses, and sea birds.
But what about penguins, do Leopard seals eat penguins?
Yes, these seals are carnivores and apex predators that do eat penguins. They also feed on other seals and have more recently been found to feed on some sharks.
Do Leopard Seals Kill Penguins?
Leopard seals are solitary animals that are surprisingly effective hunters. They have a perfectly streamlined torpedo-shaped body that allows them to move through the water at 23mph (37kmh).
These seals use their intelligence to outwit penguins and will hide behind icecaps or underneath the water to catch unsuspecting penguins off guard.
Penguins need to enter the ocean in order to hunt food, so the Leopard seals will hide out of sight, waiting for penguins to confidently dash into the water.
Once in the water, the seals will strike, often grabbing penguins in their jaws and shaking them around much like a dog does when it catches prey.
Seals are much faster than penguins in the water and are incredibly agile, therefore when a Leopard seal sets its sight on a penguin the chances of a kill are strong.
Leopard seals kill penguins by grabbing them in their jaws and shaking them until death. Their large, sharp teeth allow them to rip parts of the penguin off to make them easier to digest.
These seals have a special arrangement in their jaws that allows them to sieve out krill and other small crustaceans much as baleen whales do.
They have large canine teeth and back molar that lock together, leaving the penguin with no escape once clutched in the jaws of a leopard seal.
Do Leopard Seals Eat Penguins Whole?
When a Leopard seal catches a penguin, it will usually beat the penguin against the water until its prey is exhausted and disorientated.
The Leopard seal’s huge teeth allow it to easily tear the penguin into small pieces before consuming their catch, making them easier to consume.
These seals will even play with their prey before they eat. They allow the penguins to swim towards the shore before cutting them off, they will do this over and over until the penguin successfully reaches land or succumbs to exhaustion.
Young Leopard seals regularly play with penguins to sharpen their hunting skills. It’s largely a training exercise to help the seals become faster, more agile, and able to catch penguins in the future easier.
When Do Leopard Seals Eat Penguins?
Leopard seals are incredibly sneaky when they hunt for penguins, often waiting for lone penguins to separate from the crowd to pick off an easy meal.
A lone penguin is far less safe both in the water and onshore, this is why they prefer to bunch together to benefit from safety in numbers.
However, there are many situations where lone penguins find themselves cut off from the crowd, and this is when the Leopard seal will strike, as they can focus on one single penguin which makes it easier to catch.
Do Other Seals Eat Penguins?
It’s not only the Leopard seal that hunts and eats penguins. Fur seals are known to eat penguins too, they have been observed assaulting and exploiting penguins, including penetrating and copulation.
Fur seals will quite literally rape penguins before killing them, it’s very strange behavior that is rarely seen across the animal kingdom.
The two species are very different, and therefore it seems that the seals are doing this for fun.
Check out this interesting footage of a seal attempting to mate with a penguin;
So, do Leopard seals eat penguins? Absolutely. These seals are carnivores that actively hunt, kill and eat penguins in the Antarctic.
They hide under the water and behind ice caps in order to catch the penguins by surprise, before striking and tearing them to shreds.
These seals will even play with their food, similar to how Orca play with seals. They will grab onto penguins and thrash them off the surface, concussing and exhausting their prey.
The Leopard seal is an apex predator that dominates the Antarctic waters. They are incredible hunters with frightening jaws, they have even been known to attack and kill humans.
This makes Leopard seals very dangerous, but also some of the most effective predators in the oceans.
Hopefully, this post has been helpful and you’ve learned a thing or two about the Leopard seals hunting techniques today.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I hope you’ve enjoyed it, feel free to share it with others that may find it of value.
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Hi, I’m George – the founder of MarinePatch. I created this blog as marine wildlife has been my passion for many years and I’ve spent decades learning and dedicating myself to documenting all I can about the topic.