Recovered seals freed on Texel island


This 17 March 2020 video from Texel island in the Netherlands shows 9 seals being freed after recovery.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, few people were present at the freeing of Ollie, Marsh, Quinten, Maltezer, Pika, Jacqueline, Leonie, Fritzie and Balou.

Grey seals’ underwater clapping communication, new research


This 3 February 2020 video says about itself:

A grey seal has been captured on camera clapping its flippers underwater for the very first time.

Dr Ben Burville, a researcher at Newcastle University, UK, has been trying for 17 years to film a seal producing the gunshot-like sound which they make underwater during the breeding season.

From Monash University in Australia:

Grey seals discovered clapping underwater to communicate

February 3, 2020

Marine mammals like whales and seals usually communicate vocally using calls and whistles.

But now a Monash University-led international study has discovered that wild grey seals can also clap their flippers underwater during the breeding season, as a show of strength that warns off competitors and advertises to potential mates.

This is the first time a seal has been seen clapping completely underwater using its front flippers.

“The discovery of ‘clapping seals’ might not seem that surprising, after all, they’re famous for clapping in zoos and aquaria,” said lead study author Dr David Hocking from Monash University’s School of Biological Sciences.

“But where zoo animals are often trained to clap for our entertainment — these grey seals are doing it in the wild of their own accord.”

The research, published today in the journal Marine Mammal Science, is based on video footage collected by naturalist Dr Ben Burville, a Visiting Researcher with Newcastle University, UK.

The footage — which took Dr Burville 17 years of diving to catch on film — shows a male grey seal clapping its paw-like flippers to produce a gunshot-like ‘crack!’ sound.

“The clap was incredibly loud and at first I found it hard to believe what I had seen,” Dr Burville said.

“How could a seal make such a loud clap underwater with no air to compress between its flippers?”

“Other marine mammal species can produce similar types of percussive sound by slapping the water with their body or tail,” said Associate Professor Alistair Evans from Monash University, who was also involved in the study.

The loud high-frequency noise produced by clapping cuts through background noise, sending out a clear signal to any other seals in the area.

“Depending on the context, the claps may help to ward off competitors and/or attract potential mates,” Dr Hocking said.

“Think of a chest-beating male gorilla, for example. Like seal claps, those chest beats carry two messages: I am strong, stay away; and I am strong, my genes are good.”

Dr Hocking said clapping seals demonstrates just how much there still is to learn about the animals living around us.

Clapping appears to be an important social behaviour for grey seals, so anything that disturbed it could impact breeding success and survival for this species.

Human noise pollution is known to interfere with other forms of marine mammal communication, including whale song,” Dr Hocking said.

“But if we do not know a behaviour exists, we cannot easily act to protect it.”

Understanding the animals around us better may just help us to protect them, and their way of life.

This 23 January 2020 video is also about the new discovery.

Rare albino seal freed after convalescence


This 15 January 2020 video from Texel island in the Netherlands shows the freeing of two seals who had been ill after convalescence: one ‘normally’ coloured harbour seal, and the albino seal Snow White.

Snow White had been the first albino seal ever in Texel’s Ecomare museum rehab.

Snow White had been ill when he was found last October. Now, he has an electronic tracker on his back for studying his movements.

Sick albino seal to Texel island rehab


This 11 October 2017 video from the Pieterburen seal rehabilitation centre in the Netherlands shows seals, including albino seal Sealas, being set free again after convalescence. Miss Earth was present.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Nature Center Ecomare on Texel has since today a new resident: an albino seal. And that is special, because according to Ecomare, albinism is a ‘rare phenomenon’ among seals.

The white male [harbour] seal lay this morning on the Wadden Sea dike of Texel. “A passer-by has called us and thought that the seal did not look fit. He was not relaxed”, says an Ecomare spokesperson.

The animal appears to suffer from a lungworm infection and has little to no eyesight. Eye problems often occur with albinism. It is not yet clear whether the seal is completely blind, or can at least see some things. …

The Ecomare albino seal

This photo shows the Ecomare albino seal, with its pale fur and red eyes.

“The good news is that he has already eaten himself today. That saves a lot of stress for the animal. We hope that the medication will works, that the animal will recover quickly and we will be able to release it back into nature.”

It is the first time that Ecomare has taken care of an albino seal. In the past, other shelters have cared for albino seals, but albinism remains a rare phenomenon among these animals. Seals that are completely black and have melanism – the opposite of albinism – are more common.

The seal is cared for in quarantine, but is visible to visitors through the windows.

The animal is three to four months old and weighs 16.8 kilograms. According to Ecomare, that is a reasonable weight for an animal that arrives so sick at the shelter. Because of the infection and the many wounds on his body, the seal has received a solution of salts and minerals to restore the moisture balance. The vet has also given an injection of antibiotics and worming agent.

Harp seal pups and climate change


This 8 August 2019 video from Canada says about itself:

The Harp Seal‘s Race Against Time – Ep. 5 | Wildlife: The Big Freeze

We head away from land onto the ice floes of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where thousands of harp seals are giving birth to tiny yellow pups. The adults have come so far south from their feeding grounds that this forms a unique oasis away from their main predator, the polar bear. But there’s a catch. From the minute the pups are born, they enter a race against time. In one of the shortest mammal weaning periods, the pups have just 10 days to drink all the milk possible and start swimming before their mothers abandon them on melting ice. Our changing climate means the stakes couldn’t be higher. If the ice melts before they learn to swim, this generation of pups will drown.

Studying harbour seals in Oregon, USA


This 1 June 2015 video from the USA is called Harbor seals in Waldport, Oregon.

From PLOS:

Mapping Oregon coast harbor seal movements using wearable devices

July 31, 2019

Wearable devices fitted to harbor seals reveal their movements around the Oregon coast, for a population that has been increasing following the implementation of marine reserves and protection acts. The study publishes July 31, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Sheanna Steingass from Oregon State University, USA, and colleagues.

Approximately 10,000-12,000 harbor seals, Phoca vitulina richardii, make the Oregon coast their home year-round — but there’s little data on these seal populations. The authors of the present study investigated the ranges and habitats of these seals.

Steingass and colleagues fitted external satellite transmitters to 24 adult harbor seals from Alsea Bay and Netarts Bay in Oregon between September 2014 and April 2015. They collected location data every other month (in order to extend battery life) to evaluate and model the seals’ movements, calculating each seal’s home range (the area within which they spent 95 percent of their time) and core area (the smaller area where they were especially likely to stay). They also examined how seals used specific habitat and how frequently the seals spent time in five newly-established Oregon marine reserves.

The authors found the average home range for these seals was approximately 364 km2, though individual seals’ home ranges varied greatly. The average calculated core area for seals encompassed on average 29.41 km2, though this also varied greatly.

Seals spent approximately 50 percent of their time in rivers, estuaries and bays, and were in the water (versus dry land) about 70 percent of the time. While they generally stayed close to the shore, when they did make open ocean trips, these lasted an average of around 22 hours. The seals in this study tended to use the marine reserve areas within their range only rarely, visiting them less than 2 percent of the time — the authors suspect this is due to the reserves’ specific habitats.

As the first major documentation of space use of Oregon coast harbor seals in the last 30 years, this study enables further hypotheses and modelling of harbor seals in a future where marine areas are subject to frequent change.

The authors add: “Satellite tracking reveals at-sea habitat use for the first time for Pacific harbor seals in Oregon. Results from 24 seals demonstrate individual differences in behavior, with some study animals ranging hundreds of miles and few spending time within Oregon’s marine reserves.”

How seals dive, new research


This 2017 video is called Meet the Harbour Seal.

From PLOS:

Wearable device reveals how seals prepare for diving

June 18, 2019

A wearable non-invasive device based on near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) can be used to investigate blood volume and oxygenation patterns in freely diving marine mammals, according to a study publishing June 18 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by J. Chris McKnight of the University of St. Andrews, and colleagues. The results provide new insights into how voluntarily diving seals distribute blood and manage the oxygen supply to their brains and blubber, yielding important information about the basic physiological patterns associated with diving.

In response to submersion in water, mammals show a suite of cardiovascular responses such as reduced heart rate and constriction of peripheral blood vessels. But investigating dive-by-dive blood distribution and oxygenation in marine mammals has up to now been limited by a lack of non-invasive technology that can be used in freely diving animals.

The authors hypothesized that NIRS could address this gap in knowledge by providing high-resolution relative measures of oxygenated and deoxygenated hemoglobin within specific tissues, which can in turn be used to estimate changes in blood volume. In the new study, McKnight and colleagues adapted NIRS technology for use on freely diving harbor seals to investigate blood volume and oxygenation patterns specifically in the brain and blubber, using a device that they dub the PortaSeal.

The authors used the PortaSeal to obtain detailed continuous NIRS data from four seals swimming freely in a quasi-natural foraging habitat. The device is superglued to the animals’ fur; either on their heads to measure cerebral blood, or on the shoulder to monitor peripheral circulation; it is then easily removed, and the data downloaded.

Intriguingly, the results showed that seals routinely constrict their peripheral blood vessels, accompanied by increased cerebral blood volume, approximately 15 seconds before submersion. These anticipatory adjustments suggest that blood redistribution in seals is under some degree of cognitive control and is not just a reflex response to submersion. Seals also routinely increase cerebral oxygenation at a consistent time during each dive, despite a lack of access to air.

The authors propose that the ability to track blood volume and oxygenation in different tissues using NIRS will enable a more accurate understanding of physiological plasticity in diving animals in what is an increasingly disturbed and exploited environment.

“Discovering that seals, which are physiologically fascinating animals, can seemingly actively exert control over their circulatory systems is really exciting,” Said Dr McKnight. “It gives a new perspective on the capacity to control the body’s fundamental physiological responses. Getting this insight with non-invasive wearable technology from the bio-medical field offers many exciting future research avenues. We can start to study organs, like the brain, of seals in the open ocean performing exceptional feats like diving to 2000m for 2hrs with heart rates as low as 2bpm, and yet somehow avoid brain trauma.”