The best known predators are the leopard seals, but there are also fur seals
, and whales and sharks
To distract their predators and make the hunt more difficult, penguins usually enter in group in the water.
© Elizabeth Burtt
The leopard seal
is relative to true seals and belongs to the family of the phocide (earless) seals.
These, in opposite to eared seals, can only propel themselves on land by wriggling on their bellies or pulling themselves forward
with their front limbs.
They are well adjusted to a life in the water with their short limbs.
Characteristic for these seals is the lack of external ears, although they can hear very well.
PHOTO OF LEOPARD SEAL
'Commonwealth of Australia copyright
reproduced by permission
To the family of the southern seals also belong, beside the leopard seals, the crab eaters, the Ross and the Weddell seals.
They all live in and around Antarctica.
Leopard seals can reach a lenght of 4 m and weighs about 500 kg. They have a very large mouth, with the corners of
their mouth reaching almost the back of their head.
Their teeth consist of long, sharp incisors, large pointed eye-teeth and 3 pointed back teeth.
In that way they are able to catch krill as well as fast swimming fishes and penguins.
The belly of a leopard seal is light coloured and the back is dark and spotted, so they are almost invisible in the water.
Eating a penguin by a leopard seal looks very cruel.
The predator waits almost immobile where the penguins usually go ashore.
As soon as a penguin comes too close, he grabs him with a fast move of his head and hold him very strongly between his jaws.
Then he shakes his prey backwards and forwards with fast, abrupt movements till the skin of the penguin tears and
he can bite parts of the flesh.
A relative South African sea bear.
In opposite to leopard seals, fur seals belong to the eared seals (otariidae seals). They are relative to sea lions and sea bears.
Because they are able to turn their hind flippers forward, they can use all four limbs when moving on land.
They are about 2 m long and weigh between 125 and 200 kg.
Because of their power of endurance, they can hunt a penguin for a long time and exhaust him so much that the bird needs
to rest on the surface of the water, where he will be caught. Sometimes fur seals too, wait like a leopard seal at the
place where penguins usually come ashore and catch them there.
Luckily not all of the fur seals are predators of a penguin.
Whales and sharks.
Killer whales (orcas) hunt for penguins, although these are only a small prey to an 8 m long orca.
Killer whales are faster (40 km/hr) than penguins, but these are much more manoeuvrable.
Therefore whales drive them inside of seaweed, where a penguin loses his advantage and gets trapped, where the heavy whale can catch him
by breaking the weed with his body-mass.
Sharks too are a threat to those penguin-species, which live in the same waters as the sharks. This counts especially for Galapagos,
Humboldt, African, Magellannic and fairy little penguins.