Australian Fur Seals are one of the most impressive varieties of seals. They belong to Otariidae family and differ from other normal seals. They are called fur seals since they carry two layers of fur in their body. Australian Fur Seal is also known by the names of Cape Fur Seal, South African Fur Seal and Brown Fur Seal.
The scientific name of Australian Fur Seal is Arctocephalus Pusillus Doriferus.
Body: They have a huge broad head with a snout that is pointed in nature. The snout however might be flat or upturned sometimes. These seals have flippers in the front. The hind flippers are short compared to their huge body. Their limbs are in the form of digits which have fleshy tips. Half of their body is covered with coarse hair that spreads out sporadically. The male seals have heavier muscles on their necks and chests compared to their female counterparts.
Length: Females grow up to 125 to 170 centimeters in length. Male seals grow up to 200 to 225 centimeters in length.
Australian Fur Seal
Weight: Females weigh around 50 to 120 kgs while the males weigh around 220 to 360 kgs.
Fur Color: The adult male seals are generally dark grey to brown with an even darker mane on their necks. The females once they are adult develop light brown to silver grey fur. The throat and chest is of light creamy-yellow color and the belly portion has a darker chocolate brownish hue. Their front flippers are either black or dark brown in color. The newborn pups are either black or gray on the back with yellowish or light brown fur on the belly after moulting.
- They are known to be quiet animals and rarely exhibit attacking tendencies.
- They swim in large groups.
- They shoot out in different directions when attacked or threatened to cause confusion.
- They move swiftly in water, but on land they tend to move with difficulty, lifting the front portion of their bodies.
- They undertake porpoising movements frequently to keep an eye on the events taking place on the surface inside their territory.
- When attacked by sharks, they try to swim near the dorsal fin of the shark to keep away from the hungry jaws of the shark.
- Unlike other seal species, the Australian fur seal is an opportunistic feeder that hunts on animals found at the sea bottom than in the open water.
- The males tend to growl and bark when they defend their home territory.
The diet of an Australian fur seal consists mainly of rock lobsters, octopus, squids like Gould’s Squid, crustaceans and small fishes like pilchards, mackerels, redbait and leatherjackets.
Habitat and Distribution
Australian fur seals are usually found on rocky and sandy beaches on small islands. On the mainland they use reefs and rock platforms when resting or breeding. When in water they usually stay in and around the coastal waters.
Australian Fur Seal are found in Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, South Australia and coastal areas of New South Wales.
Australian Fur Seal Image
The Australian fur seal have certain adaptive features which helps it to survive in the wild.
- Their large front flippers help them to propel themselves when swimming. The back flippers help them to steer their body in different directions.
- They have long whiskers which assists them to find food at the ocean bottom.
- The layer of fat under their skin keeps them warm and helps them to float.
- Their dense coat is made of long coarse outer hairs and woolly underfur which helps in trapping air insulating the seal’s body and making them water resistant .
- The large eyes help them to locate their prey in dark waters.
The mating season of this seal is between October and January.
The females begin to breed when they are about 3 to 6 years of age. Male seals on the other hand participate in the breeding process when they over 6 years of age. The males are the first to arrive at the breeding sites and fight out with other males to defend their territory. The male seals try to show their strength by stretching their body to the full, pushing and shoving other males aside. They also roar and growl giving out threats which often leads to dangerous battles between the males.
Once pregnant, the female seals undergo a gestation period of 12 months, during which 3 months consists of ‘delayed implantation’. This is the period when the fertilized egg remains undeveloped for a certain period of time before it resumes development and growth.
The females give birth to a single pup that is fed on a diet of thick rick milk. Offsprings are born in the months of November and December. Once the pups are born, the mothers leave them at the shore for two to three days and goes to feed in the ocean. They come back again and start feeding their pups for another 4 to 5 months. They wean after 10-11 months, however some females suckle the offsprings for more than 4 years. Once the female seal gives birth, it continues to be in a state of lactation for the rest of her life. Six to ten days after giving birth the females start mating again and gives birth to another baby after a year.
The male seals live up to the age of 19 years. Females on the other hand have a life span of 21 years.
Great white shark is the most prominent predator of these seals. Killer whales and other species of sharks also attempt to prey on them. When on land, they are often attacked by black-backed jackals and brown hyenas.
Australian Fur Seal Predators
Australian fur seals though under threats of extinction have been classified as ‘least concern’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). They have been rated 3.1 by the IUCN. Australian fur seals are protected in Australia by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act of 1999.
There are some interesting facts about these near extinct seal species which you would definitely like to know.
- The Australian fur seal is the world’s 4th rarest species of seal.
- The male seals mate around 50 females in a year.
- Scientists have estimated that these seals give birth to about 5000 pups in the waters of Tasmania every year.
- The two most prominent breeding grounds of this seal are Seal Rocks near Phillip Island and Lady Julia Percy Island near Warrambool.
- The Australian fur seal possesses an unusual talent of unhooking a fish caught in a fishing line which often surprises fishermen.
Here are a few images of this rare variety of seal, have a look at them.
Australian Fur Seal Picture
Australian Fur Seal Photo