Drone image of a group of crabeater seals


© Florian Ledoux / Dropzone Production

Around Antarctica, where the sea ices over permanently forming pack ice, live various species of pinnipeds, including the crabeater seal (Lobodon carcinophagus), considered to be one of the most plentiful seal species in the world.
The term "crabeater" might make you think this seal is a gluttonous consumer of crabs, when actually it feeds principally on another crustacean known as krill (Euphausia superba) abundantly present in Antarctic waters. This mammal's adapting to feed distinguishes it from other pinnipeds. In fact, it has complex teeth with sieve-like tubercles and bony protuberances that allow it to filter water and capture Antarctic krill.
The crabeater seal is not a threatened species today, but that does not mean it might not be in the future. Some researchers suggest that global warming might be a potential threat, which may drastically reduce Antarctic ice and thus the habitat of this species unless trends change. Pack ice is also important for the young stages of krill development and so also for its biomass in the adult phase, which constitutes a resource for various predators and above all for the crabeater seal.
We still do not know today if this pinniped can shift to a more general diet, should its staple source of food disappear. If the answer is no, the seal will struggle greatly, with an inevitable population decline. We are the guardians of their fate and we have the power to stop the worst from happening. The choice is ours.

Martina Lando