Weddell seal feeds on Adélie Penguins in the Ross Sea, Antarctica


In the Antarctic ecosystem, leopard seals are known to be a main predator of penguins, while Weddell seals typically feed on fish and small crustaceans. In this study, we describe the observation of a Weddell seal that hunted juvenile Adélie Penguins on Inexpressible Island in the Ross Sea, Antarctica. The Weddell seal remained in the water near the edge of the sea ice and attacked young individuals. The penguins were in the late phase of molting and appeared to just venture into the water, which indicates that the individuals were unfamiliar with the water and had lower swimming ability than adults. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first video recording of Weddell seal predation on penguins and the first record on Adélie Penguins being attacked by the Weddell seals. Here, we discuss the possibility that Weddell seals could be an opportunistic predator of juvenile penguins when they are highly vulnerable.

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We specially thank to Wanho Im for sharing his video recordings on the Weddell seals and thank to Dr. V. Benno Meyer-Rochow for English correction. This research was supported by the ‘Ecosystem Structure and Function of Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Antarctica’ project (PM18060), funded by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (20170336), Korea. We thank logistic help from overwintering members at Jang Bogo Station during the field seasons. This study was conducted under permission from Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, according to the current laws of Republic of Korea (Act on Antarctic Activities and Protection of Antarctic Environment).

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Correspondence to Won Young Lee or Jeong-Hoon Kim.

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Video recording of the attack of a Weddell seal on an Adélie Penguin in Seaview Bay, Inexpressible Island, Antarctica, on 11 February 2018 (MP4 49838 kb)

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Video recording of the attack of a Weddell seal on an Adélie Penguin in Seaview Bay, Inexpressible Island, Antarctica, on 11 February 2018 (MP4 49838 kb)

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Lee, W.Y., Jung, J., Chung, H. et al. Weddell seal feeds on Adélie Penguins in the Ross Sea, Antarctica. Polar Biol 42, 1621–1624 (2019) doi:10.1007/s00300-019-02539-8

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  • Weddell seal
  • Adélie penguin
  • Foraging behavior
  • Predation