Southern fur seal, South American fur seal
The South American fur seal (Arctocephalus australis ) breeds on the coasts of Peru, Chile, the Malvinas Islands, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. The total population is around 250,000. However, population counts are sparse and outdated. Although Uruguay has long been considered to be the largest population of South American fur seals, recent census data indicates that the largest breeding population of A. a. australis (that breeds in Chile, Malvinas, Argentina, Uruguay) are at the Malvinas Islands (estimated pup abundance ~36,000) followed by Uruguay (pup abundance ~31,000). The population of South American fur seals in 1999 was estimated at 390,000, a drop from a 1987 estimate of 500,000 - however a paucity of population data, combined with inconsistent census methods, makes it difficult to interpret global population trends.
Nocturnality is an animal behavior characterized by being active during the night and sleeping during the day. The common adjective is "nocturnal",...
A carnivore meaning 'meat eater' is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of a...
A molluscivore is a carnivorous animal that specializes in feeding on molluscs such as gastropods, bivalves, brachiopods, and cephalopods. Known mo...
A piscivore is a carnivorous animal that eats primarily fish. Piscivorous is equivalent to the Greek-derived word ichthyophagous. Fish were the die...
Semiaquatic animals are those that are primarily or partly terrestrial but that spend a large amount of time swimming or otherwise occupied in wate...
Precocial species are those in which the young are relatively mature and mobile from the moment of birth or hatching. Precocial species are normall...
Natatorial animals are those adapted for swimming. Some fish use their pectoral fins as the primary means of locomotion, sometimes termed labriform...
Terrestrial animals are animals that live predominantly or entirely on land (e.g., cats, ants, snails), as compared with aquatic animals, which liv...
Congregatory animals tend to gather in large numbers in specific areas as breeding colonies, for feeding, or for resting.
Among animals, viviparity is the development of the embryo inside the body of the parent. The term 'viviparity' and its adjective form 'viviparous'...
Polygyny is a mating system in which one male lives and mates with multiple females but each female only mates with a single male.
A dominance hierarchy (formerly and colloquially called a pecking order) is a type of social hierarchy that arises when members of animal social gr...
NoNot a migrant
Animals that do not make seasonal movements and stay in their native home ranges all year round are called not migrants or residents.
South American fur seals are members of the family that sea lions belong to (Otariidae, meaning eared seals). On land they are more agile than the 'earless' seals, due to being able to move their back limbs forward under, their body raising it as they move. Males and females differ in appearance, as the male is much larger and heavier, having a mane of long hair over its thick neck and shoulders. Adults are blackish-gray, and sometimes have a slightly grizzled appearance. Females and sub-adult males are dark brown to grayish-black, and have paler underparts.
The South American fur seal, as its common name suggests, occurs along both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of South America, and has a discontinuous distribution that runs from Peru to Chile, as well as from southern Brazil to Tierra del Fuego, and then around the Falkland Islands. Most of the seals are concentrated on Uruguay’s coast, and they are also sometimes reported outside of their normal range, off the coast of Chile in the Juan Fernández Islands, and in Colombia. These animals breed on land, and colonies are generally found in caves, on rocky coasts, on ledges above the shorelines, or in areas that are strewn with boulders. This species’ distribution at sea is little known, but they are thought to primarily occur in seas around the coast and above the continental shelf and slope, though they sometimes travel to over 600 km offshore.
South American fur seals are social animals and live alongside each other in rookeries that are along the shore. These seals often fish during the night in groups. Most of the time they spend in the water swimming, however, they live on land during the breeding season. Although seasonal movements of males and juvenile seals are not well understood, most females stay near the breeding grounds during the year. At sea, this species is often seen resting or travelling in groups, spending a lot of time grooming when at rest at the surface. These seals communicate vocally and through touch. When they communicate with each other over long distances they use vocalizations.
South American fur seals are carnivores (piscivores and molluscivores), they eat anchovies, shrimp, lobster, krill and squid, location having a role in the main dietary content. In Peru and Uruguay they eat anchovies. The ones closer to Brazil eat shrimp. In Chile they tend to eat krill, specifically lobster krill.
This species is polygynous, males mating during each breeding period with more than one female. Males compete for particular areas along the shoreline between October and December for the purpose of establishing a territory for them and the females they are mating with. The dominant males gain the largest territory and the most females. One pup is born per breeding season after a gestation of 8 to 12 months. Mothers usually wean their pups after 6 to 12 months, but sometimes not until 3 years, when the mother may be nursing two pups. The female mates with a male again within 7 to 10 days after the birth. Males reach maturity at about age of 7, but many do not mate until 8 years old. Females reach maturity at about the age of 3.
South American fur seals have for a long time been hunted for their fur, skin and oil. 1515 was when commercial hunting first began and it has continued in Uruguay until very recently. Some illegal poaching continues, particularly in Peru. Others threats include pollution, oil spills, entanglement accidentally in fishing gear, illegal hunting as bait for king crab fishing, and reduction in prey due to intensive commercial fishing. This species can also be heavily impacted by El Niño events, which affect ocean currents, decreasing the supply of food and causing many deaths of seals of all ages. This natural phenomenon, which causes the ocean surface water to heat up and lasts for a number of months, has the most serious impact on the seal populations in Peru. It takes place every 4 to 12 years.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total South American fur seal population size is about 238,000 individuals, including approximately 109,500 mature individuals. Currently this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) and its numbers today increasing.
South American fur seals may have influence on the fish, krill and squid population due to their diet. They are also important as prey for their natural predators (sharks, killer whales).