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Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Seal Loves Penguin: Alas It Was Not To Be

An Antarctic fur seal has been caught on camera trying to have sex with a king penguin.

Biologist Nico de Bruyn and a colleague were studying elephant seals on Marion Island (a territory of South Africa) when they noticed a young, adult male Antarctic fur seal attempting to copulate with an adult king penguin of unknown sex.

"At first glimpse, we thought the seal was killing the penguin," says Mr. de Bruyn, a PhD student at the Department of Zoology and Entomology in the University of Pretoria.

BBC describes the process in graphic detail:

The 100kg seal first subdued the 15kg penguin by lying on it.

The penguin flapped its flippers and attempted to stand and escape - but to no avail.

The seal then alternated between resting on the penguin, and thrusting its pelvis, trying to insert itself, unsuccessfully.

After 45 minutes the seal gave up, swam into the water and then completely ignored the bird it had just assaulted.

The penguin did not appear to have been injured by the seal.

Scientists note that while sexual coercion among animals is extremely common, this bizarre incident is thought to be the first recorded example of a mammal trying to have sex with a member of another class of vertebrate, such as a bird, fish, reptile, or amphibian.

Of course the question you are asking is: WHY?!??!!

The researchers speculate that it was the behaviour of a frustrated, sexually inexperienced young male seal.

Equally, it might be been an aggressive, predatory act; or even a playful one that turned sexual.

While these are plausible explanations, here at Fresh Brainz we propose a much simpler possibility.

To the best of our knowledge, only one situation can cause an individual to suddenly lose all normal inhibitions and engage in unpredictable, indiscriminate sexual behaviour...

Pass the beer googles, Randy.


Would you like to know more?
- Original research article:
Sexual harassment of a king penguin by an Antarctic fur seal (de Bruyn et al. 2008, Journal of Ethology)