Espolarte - Marine mammals - South American Fur Seal

South American Fur Seal

Arctocephalus australis


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The South American Fur Seal is an eared seal. It belongs to the family Otariidae.

Description

Length 1.9 m (males), 1.4 m (females). Weight 180 kg (males), 45 kg (females). Pups weigh 3.5 to 5.5 kg at birth. Adult males are heavy-bodied and have a mane. Females are much smaller and more slender. Males have dark grey fur; females have a paler pelage. Young calves are black.

Natural history

Feeds on fish (anchovy, sardine, mackerel), cephalopods, gastropods and crustaceans. Lives in large rookeries. Males are polygynous and defend their breeding territories against other males. Pupping takes place between October and December; females can be mated again 5 to 8 days after giving birth. Pups may be lactated for a year or even longer. Young animals can be killed by Killer Whales, sharks or South American Sea Lions. Females are sexually mature at the age of 4 years. May live for more than 20 years.

Distribution

South American Fur Seals live along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of southern South America. In the Pacific, the northern limit of their range is at Paracas in southern Peru; in the Atlantic, it is in the southernmost part of Brazil. They are also present on Tierra de Fuego and the Falkland Islands.

Status and threats

Northern Fur Seals have a long and bloody history of commercial exploitation. Now, inhabitants of the Pribilof Islands kill about 2000 animals a year, and Russian hunters also kill a small number of them. Thousands of seals are killed accidentally in fishing nets. The total number of Northern Fur Seals is about 1.1 million, but they have been constantly declining since the 1970s, and now the species is considered as vulnerable.