Ross Seals: All you need to know about these creatures

We will know the Ross seals or (Ommatophoca rossii) in scientific terms, which are the least studied Antarctic seals and the only representatives of the  Ommatophoca genus

In the same way than the Weddell  seals, the leopard seals and crabeater seals, the Ross seals belong to the group of Lobodontine seals, which are characterized by having adaptations in their teeth, including the lobes and cusps, which are useful to remove the smaller prey from the water (the name  «Lobodontini » means «tooth lobe «).

Their name is due to the British James Clark Ross (London, April 15, 1800-Aylesbury, April 3, 1862), who was a British botanist who explored Antarctica and Antarctica.

Ross Seals: Main Characteristics

Ross seals are one of the smallest and unknown in terms of their study. They reach only 2-3 meters in length and weigh approximately 200 kilograms. Their appearance is similar to the Weddell Seals, with a small but wider head. Their snouts are very short and have prominent eyes up to seven centimeters in diameter and sharp teeth. 

In terms of colors, we can point out that their fur is dark gray in the back and sides, silvery gray in the belly and have whitish areas on the neck and chest. In the same way they present areas of whitish fur around the eyes in the form of glasses. Their teeth are relatively small and have two or three cusps in post-canines. Moreover, females are a little bigger than males.

A distinctive feature of these species as well as the crabeater seals, is given by their ability to produce a variety of chirps and sounds similar to sirens, which they perform on both ice and underwater. Such vocalizations, whether in the ice or in the water, are done with their mouths closed and without emitting air and their purpose is unknown, although their long-range character probably facilitate either their encounters or the avoidance of enemies.

Customs and social life

They live mainly among the dense circumpolar ice and are characterized by being solitaries, although it is common to find up to 5 specimens resting on the ice packs. Ross seals are seen sporadically and are not aggressive, allowing in most occasions the approach of humans without any resistance.

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Ross Seals: Alimentation Habits

The diet of these mammals consists mainly of varieties of fish species, krill and squid, and they swim in shallow waters, no more than 750 meters deep to get them. Throughout this feeding process, Ross seals can stay in underwater for up to thirty minutes.

They are also known as skillful hunters and make use of their big eyes and their sharp and pointed teeth. These features allow them to capture the fastest or slippery prey below the floating pieces of ice without a problem.

ross seals : antartic krill

Reproductive Method

It is important to emphasize that the mating season begins in the southern spring, and after approximately 60 days of gestation, childbirth occurs between the months of May or June being totally carried out on ice blocks. As for their life period, it comprises between 8 and up to 16 years in the most common cases.

Habitat and Distribution

The Ross seal´s natural habitat is the southern hemisphere, and its population is estimated in about 200,000 individuals, who are currently in a conservation state that represents a minor concern. In turn this population is distributed mostly in the waters that make up the coasts of Antarctica. This distribution also covers the surrounding seas, so it is very common to find Ross seals dwelling on the floating ice blocks that are located in these areas. In addition, in very peculiar cases these creatures can be found inhabiting in areas a little more north of the aforementioned.

Predators

As in the case of most southern seals, killer Whales (Orca) represent their main predators, and have little chance of survival when an orca is near them, unless they can take refuge on land, since on the floating ice blocks they are not safe either. In addition, we can mention the obvious damage caused by global warming in the terrestrial poles, and the excessive fishing of the fish and crustaceans that make up their diet.

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