Cool fact…
The discovery of Heard Island was one of the few occasions when land was mistaken as an iceberg, rather than the opposite.

Antarctic fur seal

Antarctic fur seals
Antarctic fur seals (Photo: AAD)

Vital statistics

Scientific name: Arctocephalus gazella

Weight: Females: 45 kg; males: 188 kg

Length: Females: 1.2 m; males: 1.9 m

Breeding age: 3–4 years for females, 7 years for males

Breeding frequency: Annual

Breeding season: November – late December

Age to weaning: 4 months

Longevity: 23 years for females, 15 years for males

Name derivation: Arctocephalus roughly translates to ‘bear-headed’, with the species name attributed to the SMS Gazelle, the vessel that collected the first specimen from Kerguelen Island.

Foraging statistics

What do I eat? Myctophid fish around Heard Island, Antarctic krill around South Georgia

What eats me? Leopard seals are known to hunt pups

Range trip time: From 24 hours to 3 weeks

Range trip length: 50 to > 2000 km depending on breeding stage

Depth of water where foraging: Generally to the mixed layer (< 50–60 m) but deeper dives have been recorded. Average dive depth of males (100–200 m) is deeper than that of females (<50 m)

Extreme dive depth/time: Dives of 250 m have been recorded

Distribution and abundance

Distribution: Breeds on islands and the Antarctic Peninsula from 61°S northward to the Antarctic Convergence. Females may migrate north of the convergence, some males migrate south after the breeding season.

Abundance: Approximately 1.6 million, with some estimates as high as 4 million. 95% of the population breeds at South Georgia

Population status: Populations are currently increasing at a mean annual rate of 9.8%, after being hunted to near-extinction by sealers in the late 18th century.

Conservation status: The species is a listed marine species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and is protected by a number of international agreements (e.g. listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (CCAS) under the Antarctic Treaty).

Antarctic fur seals are also covered by the Action Plan for Australian Seals.

General comments

Antarctic fur seals are more commonly seen on the eastern side of Heard Island, where the largest haul-outs occur and where the highest number of pups are born.

More information on other Heard Island seals:

This page was last modified on 28 February 2005.