Cape Fur Seal eating shark. Image copyright of  Chris & Monique FallowsChris and Monique Fallows of Apex Shark Expeditions in Simon’s Town recently took a small group of guests on an expedition to Cape Point. There they captured pictures of a Cape Fur Seal turning the tables on the seal’s own predators, the shark.

 

To the astonishment of all on board, the seal devoured the livers and stomachs of two sharks before killing three others. Chris commented that despite having been on over 2000 expeditions this was the first time that he had ever seen a seal eating a shark.

Cape Fur Seals are endemic to Namibia and South Africa. The female reaches sexual maturity at about 4 -5 years of age and give birth to one pup at a time in November and December. The pup is dependent  on its mother’s  milk for the first 6 months of its life, but will forage for food before fully weaned.  Unlike penguins, the mother will only nurture her own pup which she recognises by its smell and call.

The pups take to the water at about 6 weeks of age and by the age of 7 months they are capable of spending 2-3 days on their own at sea.

Mature females can weigh up to 120 kgs and males up to 360 kgs. Males set up harems of females to mate with and fiercely fight off their competitors.

Cape Fur Seals have been recorded diving to depths of 600 m. When diving they are able to close their ears and nostrils. They cannot breathe under water. Their diet includes fish, shrimps, shellfish, squid and octopi and occasionally penguins, of which they usually only target the contents of the stomach.

The seals in turn are the main prey of the great white sharks.

Originally exploited for their fur, their numbers fell drastically and in 1990 the harvesting of seal in South Africa was prohibited by law. Harvesting is still permitted in Namibia.

For more beautiful images taken underwater by Chris and Monique see

http://www.apexpredators.com/the-sardine-run.html

For regular updates and a visual feast of photographs taken in and on our oceans, join them on Facebook

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References

http://www.dict.org.za/seals.php

http://www.biodiversityexplorer.org/mammals/carnivora/arctocephalus_pusillus.htm

http://www.drumbeatcharters.co.za/seals.html