By Kate HulmePublished November 08, 2018 09:58:37Baby seals are everywhere, from the beaches of Queensland to the icy beaches of Antarctica.
But why are they so popular?
According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, baby seals have been used for over 100 years in the wild.
“Baby seals have evolved over the last 100 years to adapt to a wide range of marine habitats including coastal environments, rivers, lakes, seas, and oceanic sediments,” said Dan Treadway, research scientist with NOAA’s Office of Polar Programs.
“In these conditions, they are able to detect the faint sounds of their mothers, who are in the background.
Baby seals are able and willing to share this knowledge with each other, and are therefore able to learn and grow.”
So how do baby seals cope with being used for bait in the ocean?
“Baby sea lions and seals rely on their scent to track prey, which they then consume in a similar way to their parents,” said Sarah Schaffer, curator of marine mammals at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
“Their ability to detect prey is based on a combination of scent, distance, and sound.”
Baby seals also use a variety of signals to detect their prey, such as water and saltwater currents, and also the presence of other sea lions.
The Australian and New Zealand Aquarium Research Institute also found that baby seals are also adept at using their scent for navigation, and have been known to travel hundreds of kilometres.
“Bait-shark detection is an important skill for these marine mammals and is an excellent example of the importance of sound to sea lions,” said Dr Schaffer.
“They are a vocal species, which means they can hear and respond to their environment and the sounds that they hear.”
“It’s not uncommon for sea lions to be caught in bait traps for food or even be baited with food and their skin used to lure them in,” she said.
“This is a great example of why baby seals need to be kept in captivity.”
How to find baby sealsIn Australia, the most common type of baby seal is the black baby.
“Black baby seals spend most of their lives in the southern hemisphere, and in the tropics, their range is limited to the northern half of their range,” Dr Schacher said.
Baby seals in the Antarctic are sometimes referred to as “seals of the deep”, and have a range from less than 50 square kilometres (25 square miles) in the Northern Territory to as much as 1,000 square kilometres or more in the Southern Ocean.
“Most of these seals spend their time feeding on crustaceans and other marine invertebrates, but they can also hunt small fish, squid, and octopus,” Dr Treadwell said.