The crabeater seal appears to be a misnomer as there is no evidence that it eats crabs. Its primary food is krill, Euphausia superba. It probably also eats other invertebrates. The crabeater seal feeds by swimming through a school of krill with its mouth open, sucking them in and then sieving the water out through its specialized dentition (Kooyman 1981, Nowak 1997). Klages and Cockcroft (1990) report that a captive crabeater seal was able to suck small fish into its mouth at distances of up to 50 cm. They note that this prey is much larger than the krill that it would consume in the wild, and suggest that it could probably suck krill in from a much greater distance. The seal preferred fish smaller than 12 cm and swallowed everything whole, in contrast to many seals which tear their food up with their teeth before swallowing. It was often observed exploring the bottom of its pool and sucking up debris. Klages and Cockcroft suggest that this is an adaption to winter feeding on krill in the Antarctic. At this time of year, krill is mainly found in crevices and caverns. The seal may be able to suck the krill out from these unreachable areas. Feeding probably occurs prinicipally at night (Nowak 1997).
Animal Foods: aquatic crustaceans; other marine invertebrates
Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats non-insect arthropods)
- Klages, N., V. Cockcroft. 1990. Feeding behaviour of a captive crabeater seal. Polar Biology, 10: 403-404.