Presence of the Leopard Seal, Hydrurga leptonyx (De Blainville, 1820), on the coast of Chile: an example of the Antarctica-South America connection in the marine environment


Sightings of 115 leopard seals, Hydrurga leptonyx, have been recorded along the Chilean coasts from 1927 to 2010. Mostly immature seals occurred in northern and central Chile (18°20 ́S-39°59 ́S), especially in winter, while immature and adult individuals of both sexes and in good condition were commonly sighted year-round in glacial areas of southern Chile, especially Tierra del Fuego (south of 53°43 ́S), suggesting that this Antarctic species can be considered as a regular member of the marine fauna of Chile, with occasionally hauling out on the northern coastline as seasonal vagrants. Keeping in mind data limitation, we discuss some ways of northern dispersion and the year-round presence of animals in the Southern region of South America. These include, respectively: the close proximity of the Fueguian channels with the Antarctic Peninsula facilitated by the northward extension of the Antarctic pack ice during winter and/or through the influence of the Malvinas current; and the suitable habitat of the Fueguian channels, with similar characteristics to the Antarctic environment and locally abundant food resources.

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