Essay: Behavioral Episodes

Pages: 5 (2422 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Animals  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] But when a leopard seal opens its mouth to reveal enormous and powerful jaws with sharp, canine teeth, no man would think it otherwise but that this mammal is aggressive and dangerous. However, as a photographer and biologist, Paul Nicklen has witnessed another side of these animals. His encounter with a leopard seal female has indicated how opened to interactions these mammals can indeed be. Initially, Nicklen was given the regular leopard seal treatment as he dived into the cold waters of the Southern Ocean, the familiar wide open jaw which is a threat display. Eventually, the female lessened its threat attack and repeatedly attempted to present Nicklen with a penguin. One of the things it did in trying to feed Nicklen was that it flipped the penguins on top of his head in an attempt to force the biologist to accept the meal. The experience itself is intriguing considering that, for a long time, these mammals have solely been acknowledged as ferocious predators and only that. But explorations such as the one Paul Nicklen was part of, go to show that there is still a need for in depth research regarding this species. This incident once again revealed the unpredictability of leopard seals and indeed their intelligent character.

Ray (1970) and King (1983) mentioned that, because of the leopard seals preference for an ice habitat, their species is referred to as pagophilic seal (as cited in Lobo et al., 2011, p. 70). While they are predominantly found in the Southern hemisphere, leopard seals have been spotted along the edge of the Southern Ocean, and the Sub-Antarctic islands, at Heard, South Georgia Islands, Macquarie, Bird, Falkland, South Orkneys, South Shetland, Kerguelen, Marion, and Amsterdam Islands (as cited in Lobo et al., 2011, p. 70). Also, record exists as to their presence, though occasionally, in South America, in the Atlantic coast of Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina (as cited in Lobo et al., 2011, p. 70). The Pacific coast has also been registered as leopard seals occasional habitat and furthermore, ?after 2000, leopard seals sightings increased markedly, mostly in the southern channels of Tierra del Fuego (Lobo et al., 2011, p. 71). Therefore, although predominant in the Southern hemisphere, the presence of leopard seals in various other regions seems to jeopardize their life condition. In the Central-Northern zone of South America, leopard seals were reported being in ?poor condition, and/or with multiple injuries. (Aguayo-Lobo et al., 2011, p. 77) Aguayo-Lobo et al. stated that local fishermen had been hunting leopard seals on account of their threatening condition and indeed, acknowledged that one male leopard seal had presented injuries on the tongue, presumably from hooks (2011, p. 78) Vaughan et al. (2003) acknowledged that ?the reduced winter sea ice extent due to the increasing air temperatures of the Antarctic Peninsula region could potentially cause a dispersion to the north of individuals, particularly young's, in search of suitable habitat. (as cited in Aguayo-Lobo et al., 2011, p. 80) The Antarctic is a prohibited region in term of drilling for oil as an attempt to ensure the safety of the ecosystem. This is why leopard seals become important in relation to ecosystem roles, because they prey and feed on large animals in the region. Also, investigations have been favored due to a lack of oil drilling, allowing thus for extensive scientific research in regards to leopard seals, investigations that are educative and thus have a positive impact for humans. Nevertheless, if air temperatures continue to increase, this will affect the natural habitat in the Antarctic, with ice melting. Insofar as some of the mammals in the Southern hemisphere rely solely on the habitat here, the climate and environmental conditions, the impact upon leopard seals will of course count for a change in their lifestyle. From what we have seen, migration can jeopardize their adaptability to new habitats. Thus, their role in the system will affect subsequent populations. It is important to notice that, although scientists have not been able to state the exact causes for global warming, it has been acknowledged that, while some may be related to natural factors, it is indeed human interference that is predominantly causing global warming. As Laidre et al. (2008) have acknowledged, ?habitat change or loss is critical when a species is highly specialized or dependent upon particular ecological conditions. (p. S98). It is thus part of our mission to ensure the preservation of natural habitats.

Reference List

Aguayo-Lobo, A., R., Acevedo, J., Brito, J.L., G., Acuna, P., Bassoi, M., Secchi, E., R., and Rosa, L.D. 2011. Presence of the leopard seal, Hydrurga leptonyx (De Blainville, 1820), on the coast of Chile: An example of the Antarctica -- South America Connection in the marine environment. Oecologia Australis 15(1): 69-85. doi: 10.4257/oeco.2011.1501.07

Ainley, D.G., Ballard, G., Karl, B.J., and Dugger K.M. 2005. Leopard seal predation rates at penguin colonies of different size. Antarctic Science 17(3): 335-340.

De Laca, T.E., Lipps, J.H., and Zumwalt, G.S. 1975. Encounters with leopard seals (Hydruga leptonyx) along the Antarctic Peninsula. Antarctic Journal of the United States 10(3): 85-9.

Hiruki, L.M., Schwartz, M.K., and Boveng, P.L. 1999. Hunting and social behavior of leopard seals (Hydrurga leptonyx) at Sea Island, South Shetland Island, Antarctica. Journal of Zoology, London 249(1): 97-109. Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/usdeptcommercepub/151/

Hocking, D.P., Evans, A.R., and Fitzgerald, E.M.G. 2013. Leopard seals (Hydrurga leptonyx) use suction and filter feeding when hunting small prey underwater. Polar Biology 36(2): 211-222. doi: 10.1007/s00300-012-1253-9

Laidre, K.L., Stirling, I., Lowry, L.F., Wiig, O., Heide-Jorgensen, M.P., and Fergunson, S.H. 2008.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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