Fossil seal discovered in South America

Figure 6, from Valenzuela-Toro et al. (2015) shows the relative size of Australophoca changorum (number 12 in the figure) to other assemblages of fossil and living pinnipeds, from other places (based on latitude) and geologic times

This picture shows the relative size of newly discovered fossil seal Australophoca changorum (number 12 in the figure) to other fossil and living pinnipeds (seal relatives), from other places (based on latitude) and geologic times.

From Pyenson Lab:


by Ana Valenzuela-Toro

Australophoca, a new dwarf fossil seal from South America

Today, my South American colleagues and I announce the publication of a new species of fossil seal from the western coast of South America. The name of the new genus and species, Australophoca changorum, reflects its austral origin from Chile and Peru, and honors the Changos, a coastal tribe of indigenous people who lived in the Atacama (from northern Chile to southern Peru), and were short in stature. The description, published in Papers in Palaeontology, provides a scientific name for a dwarf species of true seal from the late Miocene Bahía Inglesa and Pisco formations of Chile and Peru, respectively. One of the paratype specimens that we identified was originally recovered from Cerro Ballena in the Atacama Region of Chile; the type specimen is USNM 438707.

This tiny fossil seal was smaller than a living harbor seal (Phoca vitulina), and ranks among the smallest true seals ever described, including both living and fossil ones. Interestingly, in the past ~11-3 million years, the western coast of South America seems to have been only occupied by true seals (or phocids), a fact that stands in stark difference to what we know about pinniped communities from other parts of the world, and other time[s] in the geologic record. This unusual feature of the pinniped community in western South America fits into a broader pattern of ecological turnover seen in the fossil record of marine consumers, including pinnipeds and seabirds, throughout the Southern Hemisphere, since the late Miocene.

Seal in Biesbosch national park

This video is called Scotland’s Big 5 – Harbour Seal.

Translated from Staatsbosbeheer in the Netherlands:

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

In the [freshwater national park] Biesbosch for some time a seal has been swimming around. A boater saw the animal swim last night and informed forester Thomas van der Es.

Probably the seal swam via the Haringvliet or the New Waterway into the nature reserve. Because there is plenty of fish in the Biesbosch, the animal will remain strong enough to swim back to sea under its own power.

It remains a rarity to see these animals in the Biesbosch. … The last two observations were in March 2002 and in December 2012.

Young harbour seals set free after rehabilitation

This 17 September 2015 Dutch video is about two young harbour seals, Remko and Jip.

Three months ago, they were found as orphans on the beach of Texel island.

After being cared for at Ecomare museum, the seals became strong enough to be set free to swim in the sea; as the video shows.

See also here. And here.

Seals and birds of Dutch desert island

This 7 September 2015 video is about the Razende Bol, a desert island near the bigger Texel island in the Netherlands.

The film shows grey seals and their pups.

And little terns nesting there.

Seal eats cod, video

This 12 September 2015 video is about a harbour seal eating a cod in the Marsdiep strait between Texel island the continental Netherlands.

Wendy van der Zee from Den Helder made this video.

Cod had become rare in the North Sea because of overfishing.

See also here.

Warm Water May Spell the End of New England’s Iconic Cod: here.

Antarctic fur seal pups, new study

This video says about itself:

12 December 2009

The Antarctic island of South Georgia is home to an estimated 4 million Antarctic fur seals, approximately 95% of the world population. These eared seals usually hunt the rich waters for krill during the night, but they also eat fish, squid and sometimes penguins! The pups come together in large groups in shallow water – come and meet a gang of fast-moving pups as they play around me during a dive.

From Wildlife Extra:

A mother’s long distance call help their seal pups find them

Identifying their mother’s voice is crucial for helping Antarctic fur seal pups find their mothers in densely populated breeding colonies, when they return from foraging for food, new research has found.

Antarctic fur seals breed in dense colonies on shore, and during the 4-month lactation period, mothers alternate foraging trips at sea with suckling period ashore. Each time the mothers return to the colony, they and their pups initially use vocalizations to find each other among several hundred other seals, and then use their sense of smell to confirm.

The team from University of Paris-Sud carried out playback experiments on about 30 wild pups using synthetic signals and playbacks at different distances at the Kerguelen Archipelago in the southern Indian Ocean.

The authors found that the pups use both the sound’s amplitude and frequency modulations to identify their mother’s voice. Playbacks at different distances showed that frequency modulations propagated reliably up to 64 meters, whereas amplitude modulations were highly degraded for distances over 8 meters. The authors suggest these results indicate a two-step identification process: at long range, pups identified first the frequency modulation pattern of their mother’s calls, and then other components of the vocal signature were identified at closer range. The individual vocal recognition system developed by Antarctic fur seals is likely adapted to face the importance of finding kin in a crowd.

You can read the full study HERE.

Seal found in urban fresh water

This under water video is about common seals being fed at the shelter in Pieterburen, the Netherlands. The seals stay there until they are healthy enough to be freed again into the sea.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Seal in Oudegracht in Utrecht

The Oudegracht is a medieval, fresh water, canal in Utrecht city in the central Netherlands. Not close to the sea.

Today, 22:08

In the center of Utrecht a [common] seal has been found. The animal swam in the Oudegracht. It’s still a mystery how the seal ended up there.

It was removed from the water and is now in a dog cage in the police station, waiting until it will be brought to a shelter in Stellendam. There people will examine the seal’s health. …

A father and his daughter alerted the police who went to take a look. The seal had then passed to the bank to rest. There it was caught.

Update 28 August 2015: things go well for the seal.