Lion Seal Eating Penguin

Do lion seals consume penguins? We do not naturally associate penguins with being part of the food chain. But the truth is that there are animals that prey on penguins.

Today, we will dive deep and understand – ” do lion seals eat penguins” Are you ready? Let’s go!

Let’s start with a quick answer, and then we’ll go into a detailed analysis by stating the what, when, who, why, where; of these lion seal-eating penguins.

What are lion seals?

lion seals

There are 18 different species of seals. The size of seals ranges from 3 feet 3 inches for the Balkan seal to 16 feet for the southern elephant seal, which ranks as the largest carnivoran. 

Leopard seals are the largest and fastest seal species, and they have been witnessed hunting and eating other seals.

Second, only to the elephant seal in size can they reach up to 2.5/3.5m (8/11.5 feet) in length and weigh up to 600 kg (1300 pounds). 

Lion seals have often been called the “Angels of the Sea” due to their unique swim.

Their diet consists of krill, fish, squid, penguins, and other seals. Yes, Cannibalism is more common than thought in grey seals, as in they sometimes eat their species. 

They are the only members of the seal family that feed on other types of seals regularly.

Their main predator is killer whales, polar bears, larger seals, giant sharks, and human beings. Yes, human beings, too, mainly because of global warming.

The distinguishing feature of the lion seal is its sizeable round head (like a rugby ball), which appears disproportionately large compared to its body. 

Lion seals also have a long snout and japing jaws, giving them a reptilian appearance. The dark-colored fur on its back and light-colored stomach allow it to melt into pale ice or the dark blue sea. They aren’t renowned for being outgoing and like to be alone.

These animals have become opportunistic predators and similarly ambush their prey.

Did You Know – The most accurate method used to determine a lion seal’s age is to study its teeth. 

For Instance – like humans, seals also have dental issues like infection and damage, which gives researchers the best or closest age estimation.

Lion Seals have evolved several clever adaptations to live with their surroundings. 

Did you know- Lion seals are also called sea lions

Marine mammals include lion seals and sea lions that come under the same group of pinnipeds, which means fin-footed.

Evolutionary history shows that the pinnipeds separated from other carnivorous mammals about 50 million years ago. They have giant flippers, lengthy whiskers, and layers of thick bubblers, which helps them survive in the cold ocean water.

They are semi-aquatic mammals since they can adapt to both land and water.


Three families of pinnipeds exist. The family of Phocidae contains authentic seals, also called earless seals. The family of Otariidae includes the fur seals, and the third family of Odobenidae has sea lions.

The fur seals are anatomically and behaviorally similar to the sea lions. Both fur seals and sea lions differ from authentic seals regarding the bodily structure and social behavior.

The fur seals contain a thick layer of fur that protects them from cold. The term sea lion refers to the sea lion or lion seals and the fur seal.

Lion seals and sea lions are identical in appearance. Hence an untrained eye can’t distinguish them. Even though they are similar, there are enormous variations between them.

Mainly they vary in the size of the flipper, ear flaps, adaptation for both land and water, and vocalization.

Lion seals vs. regular seals

Lion Seals have two long wing-shaped fins, also known as flippers, and a streamlined body that gives them grace and speed underwater.

They have a thick coating of fat called blubber (like whales) that sits just beneath their skin and helps insulate them from the harsh temperatures of Antarctica, keeping their bodies warm.

When they dive, they have more blood and myoglobin. A chemical meant to store and deliver oxygen to the muscles.

Along with a lower heart rate, it allows them to stay underwater for more extended periods without a surface for air.

A flexible pelvic girdle lets sea lions move more quickly on land by rotating their hind flippers underneath their bodies and walking like other four-legged animals.

Seals propel their streamlined bodies similar to a caterpillar to move on land. Yet, Lion seals are extremely slow on land and stand no chance of chasing penguins or other land prey. 

Do lion seals and penguins live in the same habitat?

These paedophilic “ice-loving” lion seals inhabit the Arctic and Antarctic waters and ice pack formations. 

Fur seals and lion seals live in the Northern Pacific between Asia and North America and South America, Antarctica, southwestern Africa, and southern Australia.

In the Southern Hemisphere, they have been sighted and recorded on shorelines such as the coasts and islands of Australia, New Zealand, South America, and South Africa. 

Six seal species live in Antarctic waters: Ross, Weddell, crabeater, leopard, fur, and elephant seals.

On the other hand, penguins are observed in the Southern Hemisphere, such as Antarctica, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, South America, and the Galapagos Islands, to mention a few.

Are penguins the diet of a lion seal?

As we all know, lion seals mainly eat fish and tiny marine animals. They use their whiskers to locate prey in turbulent waters. They can feel the slightest movement in the water.

Lion seals can see up to 100 meters in choppy waters to find fish in this manner. They can also tell the size and shape of the fish from a distance.

Lion seals do not prefer a specific fish species, but they usually catch fish that live close to the ocean floor. 

Flatfish, lesser sandal, and cod species are preferred foods, yet what they eat varies according to what is available from season to season.

Lion seals are one of those animals that are very skilled predators. They are carnivorous mammals, and their prey is mainly warm-blooded, including penguins but not solely penguins. Overall, we can say that lion seals hunt a variety of animals. 

Small fish: These are the major protein of the seal’s diet. Diving up to nearly 2,000 feet, they catch a variety of fish.

Squids and Octopuses are a significant part of the lion seal’s diet. Seals often catch squids and octopuses underwater, and after hunting them, they bring them back on the shore to dismember and eat them.

Birds: these are also sometimes hunted and killed by seals. Penguins are seabirds. It is easy for lion seals to kill often these birds resting on ice shelves.

The lion seals hide under the ice, and as soon as the bird approaches the water, it reacts quickly to catch to eat it.

Penguins are a large part of a lion seal’s diet, particularly lion seals, leopard seals, and fur seals. They play, eat, or even mate with the penguins differently. Lion seals mating penguins may sound absurd, but the fact is that.

Male and female penguins mate through an aperture known as a cloaca. Thought that seals penetrated some of the penguins’ mating rituals.

It was also captured on film by research team leader William A. Haddad. The seal let the penguin go in three of the four historical occurrences.

Crustaceans, mollusks, and other microscopic sea creatures:  Lion seals or other species of seals have also hunted crustaceans, mollusks, and other tiny marine animals.

Crabs and lobsters can be crushed and eaten by the jaws of lion seals.

How do the lion seals stalk a penguin?

lion seal stalks a penguin

The lion seals way of dealing with penguins is quite gruesome. It indeed is not a sight for the faint-hearted or one wishing the prey to escape such a painful ordeal. 

One may even wish the lion seal kills its prey instantly than make it suffer so much, as the whole process could take a long 15-20 minutes.

Lion Seals are ruthless carnivores’ predators. Lion Seals can swim much faster than penguins, so their approach to killing a penguin is to hunt it down using its much speedier swimming speeds. 

Also, lion seals can be pretty cunning too, and they hide in the water until a penguin passes by close enough that it swims a short distance and grab it by its feet. 

When the lion seal captures the penguin’s head or feet, it swings it forcefully in a broad arc and smacks it against the sea’s surface, similar to a dog thrashing its victim. 

The thrashing continues until the penguin’s skin, and feathers are entirely stripped away by the lion seal.

Lion seals are picky eaters for penguins and leave the skeleton, feet, and head behind.

A process known as ‘degloving’ involves removing the skin off the carcass and biting into portions before swallowing.

If you are seeing floating penguin skins in the sea? You are sure to spot a lion seal or a sea lion nearby.

On primarily solitary hunters, rarely associate themselves with others of their kind to capture large prey. But most often, they hunt alone. 

For Instance – Some seals, such as the California lion seals, work together with dolphins to catch large schools of fish. Many lion seals travel great distances and dive to great depths in search of prey.

Sometimes two lion seals patrol the same area to hunt down their prey, the penguins. Encounters between two lion seals are generally aggressive, but they occur in silence. They are said to attempt to preserve the calm of their hunting areas.

Oddly enough, while rivals in water, the lion seals willingly share their ice floats at naptime. To do so, though, they must first lift their enormous mass out of the water. 

Why they chose the difficult task of climbing onto the ice floats at this time of year remains a mystery. The reason may be since the ice floats serve as mobile dormitories.

Like all great predators, the seals play an integral part in the ecosystem. In Antarctica, they are at the top of the food chain. Lion seals regulate the penguin population. Hence, despite its apparent cruel antique, it performs an essential role.

Does a lion seal have better eyesight to catch prey?

Lion seals are equipped with specialized hunting equipment, like; powerful jaws, a fast-swimming speed, and large eyes to better understand underwater.

Lion seals have eye lenses that are enlarged and almost round. These lenses are adapted to focus on light refracted upon entering the water.

For lion seals, murky and dark waters provide the best viewing conditions. Eyes contain many rod cells specializing in black, white, and grey pigments and are sensitive to low light levels. Hence, the lion seals even glow at night.

Lion seals can dive almost 984 feet below the ocean surface to catch prey. Also known to call on the assistance of other seals to help them in their hunt are lion seals.

Evidence of Lion seals and fur seals preying on penguins is more widespread. Although most lion seals largely depend on fish and small marine vertebrates, they also hunt penguins.

For Instance, Antarctic fur seals have been documented hunting king penguins off the coast.

Similarly, South American lion seals attacked and killed rockhoppers and gentoo penguins in Argentina, Chile, and the Falkland Islands.

Lion seals prey on penguins have been observed swimming in the sea and resting on land.

Finally, there are records of New Zealand lion seals eating yellow-eyed penguins.

As a result, lion seals are steadily increasing, and their numbers are recovering. If predation rates continue to rise, this could pose a severe threat to these endangered penguins.

So far, we’ve discovered a variety of penguin enemies that live and hunt in water. However, on land, some predators threaten penguins and their young.

Why do lion seals eat penguins? 

Lion seals to hunt and eat penguins mostly to live and to satiate needs for sufficient and ongoing energy and nutrients.

We all know that most animals love eating penguins due to their high nutritional content and distinct fat layers. The same goes with a lion seal.

When do lion seals eat penguins?

Since the female lion seals her pups rapidly during weaning, both mother and baby benefit from fat during 11 months of pregnancy.

Once the mother leaves them on shore, they sometimes lose one-third of their body weight. Dehydration and starvation are significant risks among sterilized lion seal puppies.

In the caring of pups, Only the female fulfills the need of the puppies, nurses them, and feeds them. Lion seal pups are similar to adults in appearance, but they have thicker coats.

Lion seal pups learned to swim for one month and halted from floating ice fields. Also, lion seal pups are stopped feeding on their mother’s milk at around one month and begin feeding on krill.

The mother becomes fertile again, and the pups are on their own. Young lion seals must teach themselves to eat and catch fish after their mother’s nursing. His mother does not lead his tricks.

During this period, young seals lose a significant amount of weight. But, in the end, the majority of them figure it out on their own. Three months after birth, seal pups are twice their birth size.

Final Thoughts

Yes, lion seals do eat penguins. These seals are carnivorous mammals and predators.

Some other seals, such as Fur Seals and Leopard Seals, regularly eat penguins on land and sea. A significant part of the diet comprises penguins and other small Antarctic creatures.

The facts to get cleared with answers are indeed interesting. I hope you got the response to the factual discussion that happened one day with your friends or family where you left the space filled with sheepish smiles.

Image Sources:

lion seals by Petr Kratochvil / CC0
Lion seals vs. regular seals by Wallula / Pixabay License
lion seal stalks a penguin by Grant.C / CC BY


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I got interested in penguins from a young age and as I grew I realized that penguins are such fascinating birds. I made it a mission to create a website where all information about penguins could be accessed in an easy to read format.

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