Ukrainian Antarctic journal

No 1(17) (2018): Ukrainian Antarctic Journal

The Reproduction of the Weddell Seal Leptonychotes weddellii (Phosidae) in the Waters of the Argentine Islands Archipelago

P. B. Khoyetskyy
National Forestry University of Ukraine, 103 General Chuprynka Str., Lviv, 79057, Ukraine, State Institution National Antarctic Scientific Center, Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, 16 Taras Shevchenko Blvd., Kyiv, 01601, Ukraine
Published June 3, 2019
  • Leptonychotes weddellii,
  • reproduction,
  • numbers,
  • Argentine Islands,
  • Antarctica


Objective. The study of Leptonychotes weddellii (Phocidae) reproduction in the waters of the Argentine Islands archipelago. Methods. The inventory of Weddell seals was carried out on the islands of the archipelago by the route method with an inspection of the places where seals are likely to be located. Moving to the islands, depending on the ice situation, the weather conditions, was carried out on the sea ice or using a boat. The identification of L. weddellii was carried out in accordance with common methods. Results. In September—October 2015, in the waters of the Argentine Islands archipelago, five breeding sites of L. weddellii were revealed. At the first site (the Three Little Pigs Islands), five parturition cases were identified, at the second one (near the old English station), the births of 4 seal pups were recorded, at the third one (the Forge Islands) — 4 pups, at the fourth one (the Black — Leopard Islands) — 8 pups, and at the fifth breeding site (Grotto — Corner — Uruguay Islands) — 11 seal pups. The sixth site was probably the Barchans Islands. During the period of the study, over 76 % of the female seals with offspring and about 24 % without seal pups were recorded. Observations indicate that females swim in advance into the water of the archipelago for further reproduction. It was found that in six females parturitions occurred a day after their appearance on the island’s shore or the ice cover, some females brought pups four, six and seven days later. During September – October 2015 more than 50 % of females gave birth to pups on the ice cover, but at the distance which did not exceed 10—15 m from the shore. The births of pups at a considerable distance from the shores of the island were recorded rarely. Conclusions. In the spring of 2015, the first female seal at birth was recorded in early September, the last one — in the second ten-day period of October, the maximum number of parturition cases was found in the third ten-day period of September. The breeding period lasted 38 days. There were recorded 32 female seals that gave birth to 18 male pups and 14 female pups. The number of seal pups was higher than in previous years, there was no postnatal mortality and no mortality of young animals was recorded. Our studies provide an opportunity to estimate the size and structure of the species population in the waters of the Argentine Islands archipelago. However, some issues of Weddell seals biology in the period of breeding need further study, in particular: spatial-temporal distribution, emigration and immigration processes in the area of the archipelago, which are related to the ice situation, the availability of feed and  reproduction.


  1. Bartsh, S. S., Johnston, S. D., Siniff, D. B. 1992. Territorial behavior and breeding frequency of male Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) in relation to age, size, and concentrations of serum testosterone and cortisol. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 70 (4), 680-692.
  2. Bastida, R., Rodrigeuz A. C. 2009. Marine mammals of Patagonia and Antartica. Buenos Aires: Vazquez Mazzini Editores.
  3. Burns, J. M. 1999. The development of diving behavior in juvenile Weddell seals: pushing physiological limits in order to survive. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 77 (5), 737-747.
  4. Burns, J. M., Castellini, M. A., Testa, J. W. 1999. Movements and diving behavior of weaned Weddell seal (Leptonychotes weddellii) pups. Polar Biology, 21, 23-36.
  5. Burns, J. M., Trumble, S.J., Castellini, M.A., Testa, J.W. 1998. The diet of Weddell seals in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica as determined from scat collections and stable isotope analysis. Polar Biology, 19, 272-282.
  6. Cameron, M. F., Siniff, D. B. 2004. Age-specific survival, abundance, and immigration rates of a Weddell seal (Leptonychotes weddellii) population in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 82 (4), 601-615.
  7. Casaux, R., Baroni, A., Carlini, A. 1997. The diet of the Weddell seal Leptonychotes weddellii at Harmony Point, South Shetland Islands. Polar Biology, 18, 371-375.
  8. Drongovska, M., Dykyy, І. 2016. Diurnal and seasonal migration of Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddelliі) on the territory on Argentine Islands Archipelago.Int.con. "Youngth and Biology progress", Kyiv, 19-21 April, 215-216.
  9. Dykyy, I., Drongovska, M. 2015. Diurnal and seasonal migration of Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddelliі) in the region of the archipelago of Argentina Islands (Western Antarctic). Antarctic research: New horizons and priorities. VII International Antarctic Conference IAC 2015. Kyiv, Ukraine, May 12-14, 2015, 54-55.
  10. Dykyy, I. V., Dronhovska, M. O. 2015. Dobovy ta sezonny myhratsii tyuleniv Ueddella (Leptonychotes weddellii) v raiony arkhipelahu Arhentynsky ostrovy (Zakhidna Antarktyka) [Daily and Seasonal Migrations of Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) in the archipelago of the Argentine Islands (Western Antarctica)]. Ukraynskyii antarktychnii zhurnal [Ukrainian Antarctic Journal], 14, 158-162.
  11. Dykyy, I. V., Salhanskyi, O. O. 2013. Osoblyvosty rostu molody tyuleniv Ueddella (Leptonychotes weddellii) [Features of youth growth of Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii)]. Ukraynskyii antarktychnii zhurnal [Ukrainian Antarctic Journal], 12, 258-264.
  12. Dykyy, I. 2012. The feeding peculiarities of the Antarctic seals in the region of the archipelago of Argentina Islands. Document CCAMLR№WG-EMM-12/P1, 8 June, 2012, 1-9.
  13. Dykyy, I. 2009. The feeding peculiarities of the antarctic seals in the region of the archipelago of Argentina Islands. Ukrainian Antarctic Journal, 8, 215-223.
  14. Dykyy, I., Tsaryk, Y., Shydlovskyy, І., Trokhymets, V., Holovachov, O. 2011-2012. Cenotic connections land biota Islands Western Antarctic. Ukrainian Antarctic Journal, 10-11, 239-256.
  15. Dykyy, I., Utjevskyi, A., Trochymets, V. 2012. Biotychne ryznomanyttia arkhipelahu Arhentynsky ostrovy (Zakhidna Antarktyka) [Biological diversity of the archipelago of the Argentine Islands (Western Antarctica)]. Dynamika bioryznomanyttia 2012: Zb. nauk. prats. Luhansk: DZ «LNU іmeny Tarasa Shevchenka», 29-33.
  16. Gelatt, T.S., Davis, S. Corey, Stirling, I., Siniff, D.B., Strobeck, C., Delisle, I. 2010. History and fate of a small isolated population of Weddell seals at White Island, Antarctica. Conservation Genetics, 11, 721-735.
  17. Lake, S., Burton, H., Barker, R., Hindell, M. 2008. Annual reproductive rates of Weddell seals in eastern Antarctica from 1973 to 2000. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 366, 259-270.
  18. Lake, S., Burton, H., Van den Hoff, J. 2003. Regional, temporal and fine-scale spatial variation in Weddell seal diet at four coastal locations in east Antarctica. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 254, 293-305.
  19. Negri, A., Daneri, G. A., Ceia, F., Vieira, R., Cherel, Y., Coria, N. R., Corbalan, A., Xavier, J. C. 2016. The cephalopod prey of the Weddell seal, Leptonychotes weddellii, a biological sampler of the Antarctic marine ecosystem. Polar Biology, 39 (3), 561-564.
  20. Pahl, B. C., Terhune, J. M., Burton, H. R. 1997. Repertoire and Geographic Variation in Underwater Vocalisations of Weddell Seals (Leptonychotes weddellii, Pinnipedia: Phocidae) at the Vestfold Hills, Antarctica. Australian Journal of Zoology, 45 (2), 171-187.
  21. Peter J. H. Reijnders, H., Plotz, J., Zegers, J., Grafe, M. 1990. Breeding biology of weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) at Drescher Inlet, riiser larsen ice shelf. Antarctica Polar Biology, 10 (4), 301-306.
  22. Salganskiy, O.O., Dykyy, I.V. 2013. Growth characteristics of Weddell seal pups (Leptonychotes weddellii) of the Argentine islands. Internationalization of Antarctic researchway to spiritual unity of humanity: abstracts VI International Antarctic Conference. Kyiv, 15-17 May, 2013, 140-143.
  23. Sato, K., Mitani, Y., Cameron, M. F., Siniff, D. B., Watanabe, Y., Naito, Y. 2002. Deep foraging dives in relation to the energy depletion of Weddell seal (Leptonychotes weddellii) mothers during lactation. Polar Biology, 25 (9), 696-702.
  24. Schreer, J. F., Hastings, K. K., Testa, J. W. 1996. Preweaning mortality of Weddell seal pups. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 74 (9), 1775-1778.
  25. Stirling, I. 1972. Regulation of Numbers of an Apparently Isolated Population of Weddell Seals (Leptonychotes weddellii). Journal of Mammalogy, 53 (24), 107-115.
  26. Stirling, I. 1969. Ecology of the Weddell seal in the McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. Ecology, 50, 573-586.
  27. Terhune, J. M., Quin, Douglas, Dell'Apa, Andrea, Mirhaj, Mandana, Plotz, Joachim, Kindermann, Lars, Bornemann, Horst. 2008. Geographic variations in underwater male Weddell seal Trills suggest breeding area fidelity. Polar Biology, 31 (6), 671-680.
  28. Testa, W. J. 1994. Over-winter movements and diving behavior of female Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) in the southwestern Ross Sea, Antarctica. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 72 (10), 1700-1710.
  29. Testa, W. J., Scotton, Bradley D. 1999. Dynamics of an Isolated Population of Weddell Seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) at White Island, Antarctica. Journal of Mammalogy, 80 (16), 82-90.
  30. Testa, J. W., Siniff, D. B. 1987. Population dynamics of Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. Ecol. Monogr., 57 (2), 149-165.
  31. Thomas, J. A., DeMaster, D. P. 1983. Diel haul out patterns of Weddell seal (Leptonychotes weddellii) females and their pups. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 61 (9), 2084-2086.
  32. Thomas, J. A., DeMaster, D. P. 1983. Parameters affecting survival of Wedell seal pups (Leptonychotes weddellii) to weaning. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 61 (9), 2078-2083.
  33. Van Polanen Petel, T. D., Giese, M. A., Wotherspoon, S., Hindell, M. A. 2007. The behavioural response of lactating Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) to over-snow vehicles: a case study. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 85 (4), 488-496.
  34. Vaughan, R. W. 1968. The status of the Weddell seal (Leptonychotes weddelliі) at South Georgia. British Antarctic survey. Bulletin, 15, 71-74.