New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2023) 47(1): 3553

Initial insights into leopard seal moult in Aotearoa New Zealand

Short Communication
Alexander A. Grabham 1,2*
Krista van der Linde 1,2
Ingrid N. Visser 2
Ximena J. Nelson 1
  1. School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, New Zealand
  2. LeopardSeals.org, www.LeopardSeals.org, Kaikoura, New Zealand, 7371
*  Corresponding author

Leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx) moult affects the application of glued tags used to monitor activity. Considering the possible effects of climate change on leopard seal activity and climate on pinniped moult, we assessed aspects of leopard seal moult in a warm region (New Zealand) of their range for the first time. Moult pelage colours resembled that found in their primary range and indicated a progressive degeneration akin to that of the pre-moult of other pinnipeds. Unexpectedly, pelage loss commonly resulted in black areas, that may be skin or short dark post-moult pelage. The reverse pattern of moult, reported for the first time in this species, was more prevalent than the standard pattern. In the reverse pattern, black areas commonly progressed from the neck down the spine. Pre-moult was uncommon, but active moult occurred year-round. Year-round moulting may have implications for glued tagging in climatically similar regions of their range.