Do Whales Eat Seals: Facts Around Various Types Of Whale


Whales are counted amongst the largest animals to live on earth. They are carnivorous and love to feed on various marine creatures.

Seals aren’t eaten by all whales, just as all whales don’t consume plankton. Despite this, apex predators like killer whales, or orcas, have been observed catching seals. These mammals float in pods, and their meals are determined by the location they live in and the pod’s hunting strategy.

However, it’s important to note that toothed whales use their teeth to capture and hold prey rather than chewing them.

Do Whales Eat Seals
Image Credit: Seal on a rock from Pxhere
Image Credit: Whale breaching water from Pxhere

Interesting right? 

This article focuses on seals as whale food and whether or not whales enjoy eating them. To learn everything in the context of whales eating seals, read this post to the end.

How do whales eat seals?

Seals are typically found around the Arctic and Antarctic areas in icy waters. Despite the fact that seals are carnivorous and predatory, toothed whales frequently prey on them.

Killer whales are the most common predators of seals. Killer whales frequently create large waves in order to wash seals off the sea ice. They also come ashore on the beach to hunt seals.

Orcas prefer to hunt in pods, and it is this trait that allows them to catch prey that is much larger than typical whale prey.

Do killer whales eat seals?

Image Credit: Killer whales from Pxhere

Orcas, sometimes known as killer whales, are apex predators. They are not whales but rather dolphins species. These predators have been discovered to go target larger whale meals.

Killer whales eat seals as well as other creatures such as birds, fish, squid, and even other whales. These apex predators are also the only species that have been documented to hunt great white sharks.

Scientists use the shape and sharpness of the killer whales’ teeth to determine their food habits. Orcas with sharp teeth, for example, are more likely to have eaten seals and other larger animals. Those with blunt and worn-out teeth, on the other hand, are more likely to have spent their life eating up little fish.

Do killer whales eat leopard seals?

Image Credit: Leopard seals by baby_bimi from Pixabay

Leopard seals are one of the predatory Antarctic seal species. They are well-known for their penguin predation in Antarctica but have larger predators that hunt them.

Leopard seals are known to be eaten by killer whales, who are transients. Although leopard seals’ habitat limits human contact, they are not protected from killer whales or orcas, their natural predators. Two preying episodes have been documented in the literature; one was in 1977 and another in 1980.

Orcas have an advantage in catching and eating leopard seals because of their surprise assault ability. That said, due to the remoteness of Leopard seals’ habitat, it’s unclear whether orcas regularly hunt and eat leopard seals. On the other hand, the fatty leopard seals make a pretty hefty and full meal for these mammals.

Do killer whales eat elephant seals?

Killer whales are well-known in the marine realm as top predators. They eat larger prey, including seals, as part of their diet.

Killer whales eat a variety of prey; however, elephant seals are preferred by Antarctic type A killer whales. Killer whales have been shown to exhibit a unique affinity for elephant seals, which is most likely because these species provide a fuller meal. 

How many seals do killer whales eat?

Image Credit: Harbor Seal by Gregory “Greg” Smith (CC BY-SA 2.0) from Wikimedia

Despite being carnivorous themselves, it is interesting to note that larger predators, like transient orcas, hunt seals. But how many seals do killer whales eat?

The Orca Behavior Institute’s Monika Wieland Shields calculated that transient orcas consumed 1,090 seals in the Salish Sea in 2017. However, as per previous research, orcas ate a third to almost half of the 1,500 harbor seals in Hood Canal within 51 days in 2003.

Different organizations have documented the figures stated above at different times. And experts are equivocal regarding the seal consumption level of killer whales daily.

Do beluga whales eat seals?

Beluga whales are a fascinating toothed whale species with a lovely appearance. The Arctic and subarctic waters, where northern hemisphere seals can be found, are a favorite haunt of these whales.

Belugas prefer small crustaceans and marine fish to seals and do not fight them. Even yet, it’s not uncommon to witness beluga whales and seals together. In reality, these two types of animals may feed on the same prey, causing them to congregate in the same area.

The slower swimming speed of belugas and their propensity to graze along the bottom are two of the main reasons they don’t hunt seals.

Do baleen whales eat seals?

Baleen whales are toothless whales that are often larger. These whales have baleen plates instead of teeth.

Baleen whales do not eat seals. Instead, as filter feeders, they consume food by filtering or straining it from the water. Food sources for these whales include zooplankton, phytoplankton, crustaceans, algae, and tiny fish.

These whales travel slowly while consuming big amounts of water and food with their massive mouths wide. After that, they filter the water out with their baleen plates and keep the food in their mouth.

Do blue whales eat seals?

Blue whales, the largest whale species, are goliaths. They are giants yet gentle and not known to display aggression. But do they feed on seals?

Blue whales are essentially filter feeders and almost exclusively feed on krill and do not hunt seals. These whales do not possess teeth to capture and hold prey. Instead, they have baleen plates that help them suck in plankton and other tiny invertebrates. 

Do minke whales eat seals?

Image Credit: Minke whales by wernersen04 from Pixabay

Minke whales are members of the baleen group. Instead of teeth, they have baleens on each side of their mouths. So do they eat seals?

Minke whales are opportunistic feeders who do not kill or consume seals. Instead, crustaceans, plankton, and small schooling fish are the preferred foods of these species of whales.

Do humpback whales eat seals?

Humpback whales are baleen whales. They don’t have teeth, yet they have been known to eat birds accidentally. Do they eat seals as well?

Humpback whales do not eat seals or other large whale food on purpose. Instead, fish and krill are their main sources of nutrition.

However, in this context, there were reports of a humpback whale misjudging a helpless sea lion while attempting to catch a swarm of anchovies. Fortunately, the sea lion could flee, and the whale continued to hunt for its natural prey.

Do gray whales eat seals?

Gray whales are baleen whales. These whales are known as “devil fish” because of their violent behavior. They are the only living member of the Eschrichtiidae family.

Gray whales consume amphipod crustaceans rather than seals. They are, however, opportunistic eaters who will ingest food that come easily to them. They have been discovered feeding mostly on mysid shrimp off the shore of Depoe Bay, for example. In addition to this, they eat cetaceans, isopods, and plankton, among other things.

That being said, these whales like to completely graze one part of the water before moving on to another, much like cattle on the land.

Summary

Except for killer whales, we may conclude that whales prefer not to eat seals in the majority of cases. However, this article is not thorough, and you can undertake your research to learn more about other whale species in this context. Nevertheless, we hope you enjoyed and learned about whales’ feeding habits from this article.

Atrayee

I am Atrayee, I have extreme passion for the Animal Kingdom and I have written a large number of articles for animal behaviors. I am an Animal Lover by nature and own two Cats.
Exploring new things through learning and unlearning is something that intrigues me a lot. I spend my free time with my husband and two cats. I must say I get to learn a lot of wise things from them! You can catch me on LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/atrayee-samaddar-06886567/

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