Two new papers published this week point to male grey seals (why always the males???) being the the most likely source of the ‘corkscrew seal’ injuries that have been observed in seals carcasses washing up around the Atlantic over the past two decades.
An adult male grey seal was observed and recorded catching, killing and eating five weaned grey seal pups over a period of one week on the Isle of May, Scotland. A further 9 carcasses found in the same area exhibited similar injuries. Post mortem analysis of lesions indicated the wound characteristics were similar to each other and in 12 of the 14 carcasses analysed, were indistinguishable from carcasses previously attributed to propeller interaction. We therefore propose that most of the seal carcasses displaying spiral lacerations in the UK are caused by grey seal predation. Cases in other locations should be re-evaluated using the scoring system presented here to identify whether grey seal predation is a major cause of mortality in phocid seals.
You can check out the paper here and here. The findings the recent years goes along way to dispel the idea that seals (and otters, leopard seals and dolphins) are cute and cuddly, but much more in line with what one might expect from top predators and males potentially trying to dominate the gene pool – as observed in lions and polar bears.