Did you know that the crabeater seal doesn’t eat crabs?

The diet of a crabeater seal consists mainly of krill (90%).
Crabeater seal (Lobodon carcinophagus) on the ice in Antarctica.Crabeater seal on the ice in Antarctica. Photo: Lars Karlöf / Norwegian Polar Institute

The name crabeater seal comes from the Latin name Lobodon carcinophagus which translates directly as lobe-toothed crab eater. The genus name Lobodon refers to the seal’s teeth, which are highly specialised for filtering krill and other crustaceans from the water.

Antarctica is home to six of the world’s 34 seal species: Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella), crabeater seal, Weddell seal (Leptonychotes weddelli), leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx), southern elephant seal (Mirounga leonina) and Ross seal (Ommatophoca rossi).

Ten species of baleen and toothed whales have also been sighted in Antarctic waters, several of which occur worldwide. The baleen whales graze mainly on zooplankton which they catch by filtering water through their baleen. Toothed whales hunt larger prey, such as fish, birds, squid, seals and other whales. The most well-known toothed whale is probably the killer whale (Orcius orca) which lives in both the northern and the southern hemisphere, though most of the population can be found near Antarctica.

The killer whale is the largest member of the dolphin family, and like most dolphin species, they are sociable creatures. They live in groups – pods – consisting of one or a few grown males and several females with calves. Each pod communicates using its own “dialect” and these vocalisations appear to strengthen the bonds within the group. Killer whales often cooperate when they hunt, regardless of whether they are trying to capture little fish like herring or huge whales. Groups of killer whales are often specialised on a certain type of prey. Killer whales have been observed tipping over ice floes, making any seals and penguins on the ice slide into sea – and into the mouths of the killer whales waiting there. They also collaborate to capture large baleen whales by forcing them to dive until they are exhausted and easier to attack. Killer whales are true top predators with no natural enemies.