Seals are having sex with penguins and nobody knows why

Seals are having sex with penguins and nobody knows why

By Lee Mathews Nov. 18, 2014 11:14 am

In the sub-Antarctic, you’ll find all kinds of animals mating at different times of the years. Seals. Penguins. And sometimes, apparently, you’ll find seals mating with penguins.

Generally speaking, mammals don’t have sex with birds, and there are plenty of reasons why that’s the case. These seals, on the other hand, either aren’t familiar with those reasons or have just decided to ignore them altogether. Scientists who spoke to the BBC say that they’ve witnessed at least four of these unexpected inter-species acts in recent years.

So just what is it that causes a male seal to pursue a penguin sexually? The experts aren’t certain yet, but they’re pretty sure that it’s not a simple case of mistaken identities — the seals aren’t just confusing a shapely penguin for an exotic-looking seal that learned to stand up and flaunt her assets.

They’ve got a few different theories as to what might be going on. One possibility is that “sexually inexperienced seals” (there’s a phrase straight out of Cards Against Humanity) are taking out their sexual frustrations on easy targets. It could also be a little harmless pinniped-on-penguin play gone wrong — possibly very wrong, since researcher Nico de Bruyn notes that the victimized penguins were of “unknown gender.”

There’s also a chance that it’s an act of aggression by the seals. Seals do, after all, have a pre-existing predatory relationship with the flightless birds, so it’s reasonable enough that the whole stalking/killing/eating thing sometimes goes slightly off the rails and involves a bit of sexual dominance.

One thing that is for certain is that someone needs to get these male fur seals sorted out. Surely there’s someone out there who’s got the skills and experience to straighten out these predators. Maybe Chris Hansen has time to pay a visit to Marion Island…

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