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Least Concern (LC)

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Species Abstract

The Arctarctic fur seal (also Kerguelen fur seal; scientific name: Arctocephalus gazella) is one of 16 species of marine mammals in the family of Eared Seals which include sea lions and fur seals. Together with the families of True seals and Walruses, Eared seals form the group of marine mammals known as pinnipeds.

Eared seals differ from the true seals in having small external earflaps and hind flippers that can be turned to face forwards. Together with strong front flippers, this gives them extra mobility on land and an adult fur seal can move extremely fast across the beach if it has to. They also use their front flippers for swimming, whereas true seals use their hind flippers. Like other Eared seals, the male Antarctic fur seal is considerably larger than the female. Adults are covered with a dense velvety underpelt, which is both waterproof and windproof, and an outer layer of coarse grey-brown hair. The males can be distinguished from the females by their long mane of shoulder fur.

In the species polygynous mating system, a dominance hierarchy of males is established through displays and fights that occur while defending territories. The Antarctic fur seal is surprisingly agile on land, attaining terrestrial speeds of twenty kilometers per hour on smooth surfaces.

The breeding range of Antarctic fur seal is chiefly restricted to seasonally ice free islands south of the Antarctic Convergence, but some individuals have been found as far north as Brazil. South Georgia is the site of the greatest concentration of Antarctic fur seals, particularly on Bird Island. It is estimated that 95% of the species breed near the coast of South Georgia. Other breeding locations include King George Island, Bouvet Island, Crozet Islands, Heard Island, Kerguelen Islands, Macquarie Island, Marion Island, McDonald Islands, Prince Edward Islands, South Orkney Islands, South Sandwich Islands, and South Shetland Islands. The species population may be above four million.

As with other fur seals, the Antarctic fur seal was long hunted for its skin and oil and was nearly driven to extinction at one time.

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Supplier: C. Michael Hogan

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