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How Antarctica’s Cutest Baby Seals Grow Up

Journey to Antarctica in a new digital series from NOVA and PBS Digital Studios, and discover what it takes to do science in Earth’s remotest natural laboratory.

Premiered: Runtime: 10:50Topic: Planet EarthPlanet EarthNova
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Inhabiting the Ross Sea—as far south as McMurdo Sound—Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) have the most southerly distribution of any mammal on Earth. Scientists began studying a breeding population of Weddell seals in 1968 and quickly found out these pinnipeds don’t always have it easy. Giving birth and raising young is particularly challenging in Antarctica’s extreme conditions, forcing Weddell moms and pups to bear sub-zero temperatures and prevailing winds. How do they manage to do it so gracefully? (OK: they’re admittedly way more graceful in the water than on land.) To find out, NOVA hosts Caitlin and Arlo travel to an Antarctic Weddell seal colony during pupping season. Once there, they meet with seal biologist Jay Rotella—and the downright adorable newborn seals he studies.

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National corporate funding for NOVA is provided by Draper. Major funding for NOVA is provided by the David H. Koch Fund for Science, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS viewers. Additional funding is provided by the NOVA Science Trust.

Major funding for this project is provided by the National Science Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Heising-Simons Foundation, The Kendeda Fund, the George D. Smith Fund, and the Richard Saltonstall Charitable Foundation.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1713552. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Footage of seals was obtained under the authority of NMFS MMPA permit nos.1032-1917, 17236, & 21158