Seals assaulting, but not eating, penguins?


Seals and penguins share habitats on many sub-Antarctic islands.

Marion Island is situated in the Indian Ocean between South Africa and Antarctic and is home to many sub-Antarctic species such as the King Penguin and the Antarctic Fur Seal.  Because both species have a diet that is heavily reliant on seafood, they share a habitat on the coastlines, however scientists here have discovered an alarming  interspecific interaction.  Fur Seals are sexually assaulting King Penguins, a species seals are able to identify as different to their own (because they do rarely predate on them).  This shows that these animals are capable of actions that do not tie into simply physical survival and reproduction.  Although incredibly disturbing, this case study highlights how little we know about animal behaviour.  We tend to believe that other than apes and some cetaceans, animals only have thought processes complex enough to ensure their survival and the survival of their genes (i.e. their offspring) because they are just programmed that way by natural selection.

If you’re interested, you can find the case study here.  However they do include very graphic images of penguins who were victim to assault, these are images you can’t “unsee”.

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