Leopard seal in Antarctica

4 01 2010

I photographed numerous leopard seals in our back-and-forth jaunts in the inflatable boats from the MS Disko to land. They look sweet and cuddly, but leopard seals are the second largest species of seals and by far the most aggressive (something I didn’t know at the time). The whiteish throat with black spots gives the seal its name.

According to Wikipedia: The leopard seal has an unusually loose jaw that can open more than 160 degrees, allowing it to bite larger prey. It can live up to twenty-six years, possibly more. Orcas and large sharks are the only natural predators of leopard seals. The leopard seal is the Antarctic’s equivalent of the polar bear and is the top predator on the continent. Visit Wikipedia‘s link on the leopard seal here. (In the section on “attacks on humans,” I read that “leopard seals have previously shown a particular predilection for attacking the black, torpedo-shaped pontoons of rigid inflatable boats….” Hmmm…sounds like what I was in while photographing this guy!)

If you possess a morbid curiosity about how leopard seals devour penguins (one of their diet staples), take a look at the incredible still photos (many underwater….brrrr!) of leopard seals in Antarctica by National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen in a video he narrates here. Nicklen’s latest book, Polar Obsession, is available on Amazon here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Resourcefulness in a very tiny package

6 08 2008

Here’s another (but probably not for long) unidentified critter in my backyard garden. I noticed a web being spun in the top of a tomato cage about a week or so ago. Next, in the middle of this highly intricate web appeared a curly cone-shaped dry leaf, suspended in mid-air like a tiny chandelier. Upon closer inspection, I saw a little spider hiding inside. This afternoon, just before the rains came, I caught him wrapping up a nice and tasty black ant, which he then lowered into the web “pantry” (to eat later, I suppose). My friend Jeff happened by after I got the shot and when I pointed out how strong the outer part of the web was, he informed me that spiders can vary the strength of their webs: stronger fibers for the outer walls and then sticky, lightweight skeins for the interior (for catching prey). That skill, combined with recycling a perfectly curled leaf as a protective home base, makes this a pretty resourceful creature, wouldn’t you agree? I couldn’t get any closer without damaging the web, and since he was so tucked into the leaf, I couldn’t see much detail to help identify it. To give you a sense of scale, the leaf is about 1/2 inch long. Any takers on this one? (And yes, I’ll still be offering prizes!) Dalogan? Care for another prize?

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.