Pinniped Species


Subantarctic Fur Seal

Scientific Name: Arctocephalus tropicalis
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Pinnipedia
Family: Phocidae
Genus: Arctocephalus
Species: tropicalis
Other Common Names: Subantarctic fur seal (formerly Amsterdam Island fur seal)
Average Length:

Males – 6 feet
Females – 5 feet

Average Weight:

Males – 300 lbs.
Females – 115 lbs. 


Subantarctic fur seals are found on islands in the South Atlantic and Indian oceans. Males that “wander” from the colonies have been found in Brazil, Angola, and sometimes in Australia and New Zealand. Their global population is estimated to be 277,000 – 356,000. 


Subantarctic fur seals are characterized by having a “face mask,” with a dark brown body and cream-colored fur around their faces and necks. 

Diet in the Wild:

Myctophid fish and squid. Fur seals forage in typically shallow waters, and usually at night. 


Subantarctic fur seals spend time on rocky shores during breeding season (November-January). The largest colonies inhabit islands near Gough, Amsterdam, and Prince Edward Islands. They are known to migrate over 300 miles away from these breeding grounds in order to forage for food. 

Threats in the Wild:

Due to being hunted for their fur, the Subantarctic fur seal almost became extinct during the 1800’s. The seals have since been protected by legislation created in 2000, and experience no current major threats. Aside from humans, however, fur seals still have to worry about sharks and killer whales. 

Conservation Status:

In 2000, protection was built on World Heritage listed Macquarie Island in Tasmania. The Tasmanian government built a 40-acre Marine Park on the eastern side of the island to help protect the fur seals living there, including an extension of protection to the surrounding waters. Since this, and other various acts of protection and preservation have been established, Subantarctic fur seals have been able to repopulate, and their growth rate has been estimated to be between 13-15%. 


The breeding season occurs between November and January, while females are hauled out on rocky shores. After males arrive to the breeding grounds, they can accumulate 4-12 females in their respective territories. After giving birth (typically in November and December), mating occurs a week later, followed by a five-day forage by the females. Once the females are finished foraging, they return to the beaches and nurse their pups for 2-3 days. 

Fun Facts:

Because of their broad location of colonies, Subantarctic fur seals are very genetically diverse. Subantarctic fur seals have been known to share space with Antarctic fur seals, with cross-species breeding observed.

Resident Animals: none