The Antarctic Fur Seal is a semi-aquatic marine mammal with external ears and long white vibrissae (whiskers). It has the short, wide, flat flippers typical of the Pinniped group that are used for both terrestrial and aquatic movement. Adult males are uniform silver-grey to brown in colour, with dark brown belly fur, a well-developed mane, powerful chest and shoulders, weigh between 125–200 kg, and are 170–200 cm in length. Adult females are variable in colour, being silver-grey to brown dorsally, paler cream to white fur ventrally and with a dark brown abdomen. Females weigh between 25–40 kg, and are 105–135 cm in length. Juveniles have an ash-grey natal coat with grizzled fur around the head and neck, with a pale cream muzzle and belly, weigh between 4–6 kg, and are 60–70 cm in length.
Antarctic Fur-seal |
Government evidence of impact of climate change:
IUCN Red List Assessment, Arctocephalus gazella
The greatest threat to this species is considered to be the impact of climate change on its physical environment and populations of its prey.
Due to a population bottleneck experienced by this species at the height of intensive exploitation; genetic diversity is low; which may render this species more vulnerable to climate change and disease.
It has been suggested that this decline is due to the effects of global climate change on prey availability (Forcada and Hoffman 2014).
Antarctic Fur Seals are considered to be one of several pinnipeds at high risk of future disease outbreaks because of their tendency to congregate in large dense aggregations and the effect of environmental changes associated with global warming on the spread of diseases (Lavigne and Schmitz 1990).
The effect of global climate change on Antarctic Fur Seals is unknown; but it has been suggested that warming may impact them indirectly by altering environmental conditions and causing changes in prey population distribution and abundance; resulting in population decline (Learmonth et al. 2006; Siniff et al. 2008; Kovacs et al. 2012; McDonald et al. 2012; Forcada and Hoffman 2014; McBride et al. 2014).
The severe population bottleneck experienced by this species; and the resulting reduction in genetic variation (Wynen et al. 2000); may render this species more vulnerable to climate change (Kovacs et al. 2012; Forcada and Hoffman 2014).