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What Do Seals Eat?

What Do Seals Eat?


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There are few animals as adorable as a young seal pup.  These flabby animals look quite comical when they wobble about on land but in the water, they transform into agile hunters with remarkable speed and hunting skills.

Seals are also called Pinnipeds and are semi aquatic marine mammals of the Odobenidae family.  There are 33 species of the seal at the moment but there used to be many more.  Sadly, 50 species of seal have already become extinct.

The different species of seal look quite similar but they can vary quite a lot in size.  The Baikal seal is about 1 meter long and weighs up to 45kg while the Elephant seal, the biggest seal species, can reach a length of up to 5 meters tall and they can weigh up to 3,500 kg!

Seals do not hibernate in the wintertime.  They stay active throughout the year.  In summer, they need to eat a lot so they can store a layer of blubber which helps shield them from the cold during the winter.  This layer of blubber also acts as a backup food reserve for winter when food is scarce.

What Do Seals Eat?

Seals eat much more in the warmer months than winter months because food can be scarce in winter.  They need foods that contain lots of fat and oils to help them store more blubber for the winter.  Here is a quick look at the main foods that seals love to eat:

Fish

All species of seal catch and eat fish.  They enjoy eating any type of fish species they can find.  Typically, they prefer fish species that live close to the sea bottom.  They love to eat flatfish, lesser sandeel, and codfish but will eat other types depending on the season.

Cephalopods

Seals will also hunt and eat cephalopods.  These animals are members of the molluscan family and include species such as squid, octopus, cuttlefish, and nautilus. Cephalopods usually have tentacles or arms, a prominent head, and a spineless body.

Not all seal species consider cephalopods a favorite food source.  Some species like the Ross seal and southern elephant seal do however prefer squid and consume these cephalopods as the main food source.

Crustaceans

Seals have sharp teeth and strong jaws which enable them to feed on a large variety of hard-shelled animals.  They can eat crustaceans like crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimps, prawn, krill, woodlice, barnacles, and many others.

The crabeater seal eats mainly krill while the ringed seal focuses mainly on crustaceans.

Sea birds

Seals also enjoy eating seabirds.  They will catch birds that they find drifting on the sea and they also enjoy visiting bird nests to consume chicks or eggs.  Seals usually feed on birds they find living near the sea.

Seals often catch and eat penguins but will also eat seagulls and other birds that hunt for fish.

Diet Variations

Seals only eat meat.  They are not likely to consume plant matter or algae.  They do however have one very strange diet variation.  Seals often swallow stones and pebbles and researchers are not exactly sure why.  They can also drink seawater but usually get enough moisture from the foods they consume.

How to Feed Seals

Seals love to hunt for their food.  In aquariums, they are usually fed on fish by offering these foods in the water or by hand.  They can however be very dangerous which means you probably should avoid feeding a wild seal.

What Do Seals Eat In The Wild?

In the wild, seals eat foods that are available in their natural habitats such as fish, penguins, crustaceans, krill, squid, and other food.  Seals usually do not migrate, but may choose to do so if there is no food in their habitat.

What Do Seals Eat In Captivity?

In captivity, seals are fed on small fish, squid, and krill.  Seals enjoy eating all sorts of seafoods in captivity and they can also be taught to perform in front of audiences and are usually awarded fish.

What do Baby Seals Eat?

Baby seals are called pups.  Pups usually stay on land for about a month until their waterproof fur grows in after which they will start to swim.  Seals are mammals and feed by drinking from their mothers.  From one month on, seal mothers will bring their pups fish so they can start to feed on solid foods.  When pups are first weaned from their mothers, they will drastically lose a lot of weight.  They can lose up to 1 third of their weight while they are learning to hunt.  When the pup is strong enough, it will join its mother and will learn to hunt for its own food.

How Much Do Seals Eat?

As a rule of thumb, seals eat 4 – 6 percent of their body weight every day.  An average grey male seal weighs about 400 kg and needs about 15 – 23 kg of food every day.  An average harbor seal weighs 136 kg and needs only 5 – 9 kg of food per day.

The biggest seal, the elephant seal, weighs about 2040 kg and needs to feed 81 – 123 kg food every day.

How Often Do Seals Eat?

In some months, seals need to eat as often as they can to store lots of blubbers.  Female pups do however fast while they are still nursing their pups.

Seals also eat much less in wintertime because food can be very scarce in these months.  During winter, seals will use their stored blubber to carry them through the winter.

Do Seals Bite Humans?

Seals can be very dangerous.  They can lash out and bite humans if they feel threatened and some are even known to swim up to people on docs and might bite them.  They have microorganisms in their skin and on their teeth that can enter your body when they bite you.  These microorganisms can cause infections which is why seals can be very dangerous.

Their razor-sharp teeth are also perfectly capable of slashing through your skin within milliseconds.

Do Seals Eat Penguins?

Yes, seals do hunt and eat penguins.  They can catch penguins on the islands or in the water.  Fur seals are especially likely to catch and eat penguins.

Do Seals Drink Water?

Seals can drink seawater but they are not too likely to do so.  They usually get enough moisture from the food they consume and do not need to drink water.  If it is particularly hot, the seal will however drink water while swimming and they usually consume lots of water when they are swallowing their prey whole underwater.