|Conservation status||least concern|
The crabeater or krill-eater seal (Lobodon carcinophaga) is a species of seal of the family Phocidae, and found on the ice packs and waters surrounding Antarctica. The most numerous seal in the world, and one of the most numerous large mammals on earth, it has been estimated to have a population from 7 to 40 million individuals, with a biomass about four times higher than the biomass of all other seals combined.
The name of this seal is unusual, based on a belief this species feeds on crabs; it is now known to feed on Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba), using its teeth as filters.
Crabeater seals are fairly large, with adults about 7.5 feet long, and weigh 440 pounds; females are slightly longer and heavier than males. The body is elongated and rather slim. The muzzle is long and narrow. After the annual molting in January-March, the new fur has a dark brown color on the back and silver gray on the sides and belly. Then the fur fades, becoming creamy white. In older seals, the fur is light even immediately after molting. Newborn puppies have soft, greyish-brown fur, sometimes with dark specks. On the seal's skin, on the sides and on the back, there are short, randomly placed dark stripes - scars, which are believed to be left by the teeth of the leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx). Puppies molt at the age of 2-3 weeks. A unique feature of crabeater seals is the scalloped-lumpy shape of the side (cheek) teeth, tightly adjacent to each other when the jaws are closed and forming a kind of sieve for filtering krill.
The crabeater seal is found in Antarctic waters south of the 65th parallel. Seasonal migrations follow drifting ice. In the summer, seals stay near the coast, migrating north in the fall together with pack ice. From time to time they reach New Zealand, the southern tips of Australia, Africa and South America. The northernmost occurrence has been observed off the Atlantic coast of South America in the estuary of the Rio de la Plata at the junction of the borders of Argentina and Uruguay.