Subantarctic fur seal, Arctocephalus tropicalis

The subantarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus tropicalis) was described by John Edward Gray, in 1872, when he recovered an individual from Australia, and this was the cause of the improper name of tropicalis. This seal can be found mainly in southern areas of the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean. It has a wide range, but prefers to breed in areas that are more northern than the Antarctic fur seal, as its name indicates. Gough Island located in the South Atlantic and Ile Amsterdam located in the southern area of the Indian Ocean hold the largest populations of the subantarctic fur seal. Some breeding areas, including Marion Island in the Prince Edward Islands, overlap with Antarctic fur seal breeding areas, where the subantarctic fur seal can be distinguished by the orange coloring on its chest.

Subantarctic fur seals are generally smaller than other seals, with males weighing an average of 352.74 pounds and females weighing 110.23 pounds. The coloring of these seals depends on the sex, although variances are not substantial. Males are typically black on their back, while females tend to be light grey. However, both sexes will have dark brown underbellies and beige-orange faces and chests. Pups are born with black fur, although they lose this baby fur at around three months of age. The flippers of the subantarctic fur seal are wide and flat, and their noses are squat. These seals can live to be twenty-five years old.

It is thought that the current number of wild subantarctic fur seals alive today, approximately 300,000, is far less than when they were first discovered. This is due to excessive pelt hunting conducted throughout the nineteenth century. One population is even endangered on Heard Island. Fortunately, subantarctic fur seals are recovering quickly, and are protected by the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals. Genetic diversity among the seals allows for increased breeding capabilities. The subantarctic fur has conservation status of “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List.

Image Caption: This picture was taken in Possession Island (Crozet Archipelago) at the site named “the elephant seal pool”. This picture was taken in December 2002 by Nicolas Servera. You can see a male of the subantarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus tropicalis) resting on a rock and scraping his head with his hind leg. Credit: Nicolas Servera/Wikipedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)