National Geographic Crittercam Research

Seeing Antarctica through the eyes of a leopard seal

The Antarctic Peninsula region is warming at one of the fastest rates on Earth. As the region’s ice disappears, animals that depend on the ice for habitat, like the leopard seal, are redistributing themselves in order to survive. Leopard seals are apex predators that can impact and even reshape communities of penguins and other seals.

Leopard seals are solitary and aggressive animals that are spread throughout the Antarctic Ocean, which has made it extremely difficult for researchers to learn much about their natural history and behavior...until recently. Due to the changing conditions, leopard seals near Cape Sherriff on Livingston Island have moved into much closer proximity creating an unprecedented opportunity for researchers.

In conjunction with NOAA scientist Doug Krause, the National Geographic Crittercam team, using National Geographic Explorer as transportation to and from the research site, deployed Crittercams on leopard seals to study their diet, diving, and hunting behavior. The video footage was combined with depth, time, and movement data and other hyper-accurate surface position data to map out how the animals are using their marine environment.

Using the Crittercam footage, scientists observed leopard seals doing things they'd never seen before including foraging the seafloor bottom for fish, stealing food from one another, stashing kills on the seafloor to consume later, and hunting for fur seal pups on beaches.

The videos have been collected, edited, and shared with the world on YouTube and National Geographic online. With this research, both nature lovers and scientists worldwide have the opportunity to expand their knowledge about this elusive Antarctic predator.

All images of marine mammals were collected pursuant to MMPA Permit # 16472-03

Get our newsletter

Join us for updates, insider reports & special offers.

Privacy Policy