|Someone's having a really bad day!|
The authors even took footage of the large mammals forcefully putting the birds to the ground and attempting to mate with them! The incidents took place at the sub-Antarctic Marion Island, on Goodhope Bay and Funk beach.
These observations are similar to a previously published observation (2006) that occurred in the same island on Trypot beach. All four incidents followed a similar pattern. The male seal first chases, captures and mounts the penguin and then "attempts copulation several times with periods of rest in between".
Seal having sex with penguin #1
The incidents lasted anywhere from 10 to a whooping 85 minutes!
"Honestly I did not expect that follow up sightings of a similar nature to that 2006 one would ever be made again, and certainly not on multiple occasions." said Nico de Bruyn, one of the authors, to BBC.
Why fur seals are engaging in these bizarre sexual activities is puzzling. Initially it was hypothesized that "the sexual coercion event [in 2006] was a result of the seal’s predatory behavior towards the penguin being redirected into sexual arousal". But in the 2011 incident, the seal was killed and eaten which makes this hypothesis less plausible.
For now the most prevailing theory is that the whole sex with penguins thing has become a learned behaviour. But how did this behavior originally begin still remains a mystery.
"Determining the drivers of the unusual bebehaviorescribed here is nearly impossible.", an extract from the stydy.
Seal having sex with penguin #2
- The paper and videos are available for free at Springer.com
- de Bruyn, P., Tosh, C., & Bester, M. (2008). Sexual harassment of a king penguin by an Antarctic fur seal Journal of Ethology, 26 (2), 295-297 DOI: 10.1007/s10164-007-0073-9
- Haddad, W., Reisinger, R., Scott, T., Bester, M., & de Bruyn, P. (2014). Multiple occurrences of king penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) sexual harassment by Antarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus gazella) Polar Biology DOI: 10.1007/s00300-014-1618-3