After the summer moult, the crabeater seal is dark brown dorsally and grades to blonde ventrally. It has darker brown markings on the back and sides over the paler brown pelage. The flippers are the darkest parts of the body. Its fur slowly changes to blonde throughout the year and it is almost entirely blonde by the summer. In fact it has been called "the white Antarctic seal" (Kooyman 1981). It has a long snout and a fairly slim body compared to other seals. Females are slightly larger on average than males with a length from 216 cm to 241 cm. Males range from 203 cm to 241 cm.
The crabeater seal often has long scars running along the sides of its body. These are most likely inflicted by its major predator, the leopard seal, Hydrurga leptonyx (Siniff and Bengston 1977).
Its teeth are very distinct and have been called "the most complex of any carnivore" (Kooyman 1981). There are several tubercles on each tooth with spaces between them that cut deeply into the tooth. The main cusps of upper and lower teeth fit perfectly together. When the crabeater seal closes its mouth, the only spaces are those between the tubercles. This arrangement probably serves as a sieve through which to strain krill, their primary food source. (Kooyman 1981, Nowak 1997).
Range mass: 200 to 300 kg.
Range length: 203 to 241 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: female larger
- Siniff, D., I. Stirling, J. Bengston, R. Reichle. 1979. Social and reproductive behavior of crabeater seals (Lobodon carcinophagus) during the austral spring. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 57: 2243-2256.
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