The Wondrous Weddell Seal




     Weddell seals inhabit the coastal waters around Antarctica (Gardner and Heider 1969). These seals live on ice near open water. The sea is their only food source in this climate. This causes Weddell seals to populate near areas with an opening in the ice. Weddell seals have also been found inhabiting coastal areas near islands around Antarctica and off the coast of the southern tip of South America (Gardner and Heider 1969). However, the majority of Weddell seals dwell in the arctic coastal areas around Antarctica.

      The arctic climate that Weddell seals live in is extremely harsh and unforgiving.  Air temperatures reach as low as -70 degrees Fahrenheit, and the water temperature is just below freezing (Gardner and Heider 1969). Weddell seals are able to endure the subzero temperatures and blistering winds due to the ability to produce large amounts of fat cells for insolation (Gardner and Heider 1969, Heerah et al. 2013). This aspect also allows the Weddell seal to be the most southern breeding seal able to inhabit this climate year round (Gardner and Heider 1969, Heerah et al. 2013). Their body morphology allows them to withstand swimming in the freezing Antarctic water.
     Weddell seals must live near open areas within the ice because they rely on the ocean for travel and as a food source. Although they spend time surfaced on the ice, Weddell seals devote multiple hours a day diving under the ice for food, travel, and adventure. The average Weddell seal travels around 370.4 km per day (Heerah et al. 2013). The main reason why these animals travel great distances is to find prey. When Weddell seals dive looking for food, they usually dive to a specific spot where there is a large abundance of food. These areas hover over a breathing hole that has been dug out within the ice (Heerah et al. 2013). Breathing holes are created by a Weddell seal using its teeth to dig out a hole in the ice (Gardner and Heider 1969). Here is a video of a Weddell seal carving out a breathing hole in the ice (Weddell seal a breathing hole). This allows Weddell seals to surface to a breathing hole to take in more air and continue searching for prey. However, prey resources in popular feeding grounds deplete forcing Weddell seals to explore to find new feeding grounds (Heerah et al. 2013). This causes them to travel great distances and explore multiple oceanic levels daily.


List of references use in this section:

ARKive 2013. <URL:>. Accessed 13 April 2014.

Gardner, R. and K. G. Heider. 1969. The Weddell Seal. Scientific American Inc.

Heerah, K., V. Andrew-Goff, G. Williams, E. Sultan, M. Hindell, T. Patterson and J. Charrasin. 2013. Ecology of Weddell seals during winter: Influence of environmental parameters on their foraging behavior. Deep-Sea Reseach II 88-89:23-33.



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