A chilly reception

A Weddell seal surfaces at a breathing hole in the sea ice. It is October in the far south of Antarctica, the time when female Weddell seals give birth on the ice. The pup leaves the warm womb at 37 degrees centigrade and finds itself on the ice at minus 20. The female nuzzles her newborn pup. It has to suckle and build blubber quickly. It usually manages to double its weight in ten days as Weddell milk is 60% fat and one of the richest produced by any mammal. Remarkably, the pup is old enough to swim after just one week. The mother is anxious to get her pup accustomed to the water before the weather deteriorates. But breathing holes are jealously guarded at this time of year.

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