WEDDELL SEALS- Mating Underwater

For Weddell Seals, who thrive in the waters around Antarctica, the next months–the Antarctic summer– are period of intense activity. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

“Weddell seals are very large; they can weigh near a ton with females being slightly larger than males, extending over eight feet long.”

Douglas Quin is a composer, acoustician and sound recordist who spent two months in Antarctica. Because Weddell seals spend much of their winter underwater, there’s a lot we don’t know about their behavior. But we do know that earlier this month, seal pups were born, and that with barely a few week’s rest, the mating season is about to begin.

“In November and December in McMurdo sound, male Weddell seals stake out underwater territory called maritories. These are an area about sixty feet around coveted cracks in the sea ice where they can come up to breathe, breathing holes. And around this, males will defend vigorously their territory, attacking one another, and chasing each other away and up and onto the ice. Many’s the time I saw a wounded male retreating to the surface with bloody flippers. The competition for females is intense and the males call with a remarkable array of sounds underwater. The chugging sound is a threatening posture; there are long descending, whistling sounds that can be heard echoing all over McMurdo sound, from many, many miles away. In this they attract females, and breeding takes place underwater.”

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

WEDDELL SEALS- Mating Underwater

When it comes to mating, male Weddell seals must be ready to fight it out.
Air Date:12/01/1998
Scientist:
Transcript:

For Weddell Seals, who thrive in the waters around Antarctica, the next months--the Antarctic summer-- are period of intense activity. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

"Weddell seals are very large; they can weigh near a ton with females being slightly larger than males, extending over eight feet long."

Douglas Quin is a composer, acoustician and sound recordist who spent two months in Antarctica. Because Weddell seals spend much of their winter underwater, there's a lot we don't know about their behavior. But we do know that earlier this month, seal pups were born, and that with barely a few week's rest, the mating season is about to begin.

"In November and December in McMurdo sound, male Weddell seals stake out underwater territory called maritories. These are an area about sixty feet around coveted cracks in the sea ice where they can come up to breathe, breathing holes. And around this, males will defend vigorously their territory, attacking one another, and chasing each other away and up and onto the ice. Many's the time I saw a wounded male retreating to the surface with bloody flippers. The competition for females is intense and the males call with a remarkable array of sounds underwater. The chugging sound is a threatening posture; there are long descending, whistling sounds that can be heard echoing all over McMurdo sound, from many, many miles away. In this they attract females, and breeding takes place underwater."

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.