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Pinnipednesday - Ommatophoca rossii Edition

Just a few more hours until I get to see Battle of Five Armies. Let's have some pinnipeds while we wait, shall we?

The Ross Seal (Ommatophoca rossii) is the only extant species of the genus Ommatophoca and can be found exclusively in Antarctica, though its small size, small population and solitary nature mean that it's nowhere near as well-known as Antarctica's other resident pinnipeds. The Ross Seal favors a pack ice habitat that is usually fairly inaccessible to researchers, and spends the rest of its time in the open ocean, searching for food.


Ross Seals have very unique facial features, most notably their large eyes and wide, blunt snout. It has long fore flippers and tail flippers, though these do not enable it to move easily on land. They are unable to prop themselves up with their fore flippers, but will often adopt a position with their heads up, which some people think makes it look as though these seals are singing. In fact, it is sometimes referred to as the "singing seal," due to that posture and their unique vocalizations. Ross Seals can grow up to 7 feet (2.1 meters) in body length, and weigh about 476 pounds (216 kg). Adult females are slightly larger than males.

The diet of Ross Seals consists mainly of squid and fish that can be found in the pelagic zones. These include Antarctic silverfish and even krill, which it strains through its teeth similar to the way that the Crabeater Seal feeds. Ross Seals have no predators on land or the pack ice, but once in the water they can fall prey to orcas and Leopard Seals.


The breeding and pupping season of Ross Seals occurs in November and December. The females will mate very soon after the pups are born, and the pups develop quickly and are soon able to enter the water. Pups are fully weaned after about a month of nursing the extremely rich milk from their mothers. After mating, the fertilized egg does not actually implant for two to three months, allowing the females to hunt and replenish their body fat for the next year's pup.


Though Ross Seals are rarely seen, they are considered to be a species of least concern by the IUCN. Their range does not overlap commercial fishing activities, nor are they hunted by any humans but researchers, but they are vulnerable to the growing impacts of climate change on arctic environments.

Sources (1, 2, 3, 4) for all images used in this post.

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