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.

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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.”

Alaska lake seals unique, new research


This 2018 video is called Hidden Seals Of Siberia [Fresh Water Seal Documentary] | Wild Things.

From the University of Washington in the USA:

Chemical records in teeth confirm elusive Alaska lake seals are one of a kind

May 1, 2019

Summary: Lifelong chemical records stored in the canine teeth of an elusive group of seals show that the seals remain in freshwater their entire lives and are likely a distinct population from their relatives in the ocean. Their home territory, Iliamna Lake, is in the heart of the proposed Pebble Mine project.

Hundreds of harbor seals live in Iliamna Lake, the largest body of freshwater in Alaska and one of the most productive systems for sockeye salmon in the Bristol Bay region.

These lake seals are a robust yet highly unusual and cryptic posse. Although how the seals first colonized the lake remains a mystery, it is thought that sometime in the distant past, a handful of harbor seals likely migrated from the ocean more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) upriver to the lake, where they eventually grew to a consistent group of about 400. These animals are important for Alaska Native subsistence hunting, and hold a top spot in the lake’s diverse food web.

Scientists now know these “colonizing” seals must have found the lake suitable enough to stay and raise their offspring. Generations later, the lake-bound seals appear to be a genetically distinct population from their ocean-dwelling cousins — even though they are still managed as part of the larger Eastern Pacific harbor seal population.

But if the lake seals are distinct and show signs of local adaptation to their unique ecological setting, this would mean that their conservation — especially in the face of the rapidly changing climate of western Alaska and proposed industrial developments — should differ from that of nearby marine populations.

Lifelong chemical records stored in their sequentially growing canine teeth show that the Iliamna Lake seals remain in freshwater their entire lives, relying on food sources produced in the lake to survive. In contrast, their relatives in the ocean are opportunistic feeders, moving around to the mouths of different rivers to find the most abundant food sources, which includes a diverse array of marine food items in addition to the adult salmon returning to Bristol Bay’s nine major watersheds. These findings are described in a paper published online in March in Conservation Biology.

“We clearly show these seals are in the lake year-round, throughout their entire lives,” said lead author Sean Brennan, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “This gives us critical baseline information that can weigh in on how we understand their ecology, and we can use that information to do a better job developing a conservation strategy.”

This new study comes at a time when federal agencies are considering whether to permit mining activities in Bristol Bay, a region teeming with wildlife, including Alaska sockeye salmon. Iliamna Lake, and the seals and other animals that live there, is located in the heart of the proposed Pebble Mine project.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this spring released a draft environmental impact statement that analyzes the project’s proposal, presents alternative plans and gives the public a chance to comment. Ultimately, the document will help decide whether the controversial mine is approved.

Because of their current conservation status, the Iliamna Lake harbor seals aren’t assessed as a distinct and ecologically significant population in the project’s draft environmental impact analysis. If the seals are determined to be a distinct population, that has important implications for how the Iliamna Lake system is managed, the study’s authors said. The lake and its resident fishes would then be considered critical habitat for seals.

Separately, federal regulators have considered whether the lake seals should be named a distinct population, but scientists have been unable to agree on whether the seals are both distinct, and ecologically and evolutionarily significant, mainly because little is known about their ecology — including whether adult lake seals potentially migrate to the ocean to feed each year.

Brennan was a doctoral student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks when he heard about early efforts to evaluate whether the lake seals were a distinct population. Chemical tracing methods he was using to track the life patterns of salmon could also work for the seals, he realized.

“The light just went off in my head,” Brennan said. “What I was doing for salmon was directly applicable to this population of seals.”

Brennan and collaborators at the UW, University of Utah and University of Alaska Anchorage looked at the chemical signatures present in the teeth of lake seals during each year of their life to better understand where they moved and what they ate. Specifically, the scientists drilled into the growth lines of the seals’ canine teeth, then measured the ratio of heavy and light isotopes of carbon, oxygen, and strontium present in each growth layer.

Because of the young bedrock geology of the Kvichak (QUEE-jak) River watershed, which encompasses Iliamna Lake, strontium isotope levels in the ocean are consistently much higher than in the lake. Unlike other elements, strontium signatures in mammal teeth directly reflect what animals assimilate from their environment, in particular, what they eat. Therefore, by looking at the strontium isotope ratios over the course of a seal’s life, the researchers saw that the ratios were consistent with lake signatures — meaning these seals only live in Lake Iliamna, depend principally on fish produced within the lake, and do not migrate to the ocean.

They also determined that young seals eat very little adult sockeye salmon. But later in life, the seals shift to supplement their diets with the seasonally abundant sockeye salmon that return each summer to the lake.

The researchers say this method could be used to better understand the life patterns of other elusive mammals around the world, such as river dolphins in the Amazon or the Mekong Basin. Broadly, marine mammals in coastal regions are among the most endangered animals on Earth, Brennan said.

“In terms of the broader picture of aquatic mammal conservation across the globe, I think we show that strontium isotopes can be really powerful because they collapse a lot of uncertainty. This method is completely underutilized across the world,” Brennan said.

Elephant seals benefit from United States government shutdown


This 29 January 2019 video from California in the USA says about itself:

Government Shutdown Brings Elephant Seals To Point Reyes Beach

Elephant seals used the opportunity of an empty Drake’s Beach on Point Reyes National Seashore – due to the government shutdown – to gather for mating and bearing pups. Wilson Walker reports.

Donald Trump’s shutdown blackmail to try to build his wall was a disaster for many workers; and for national parks and their wildlife. At least, one good consequence, for the elephant seals.

SECOND SHUTDOWN LOOMS AS TALKS BREAK DOWN Talks between congressional Republicans and Democrats aimed at averting another government shutdown have broken down without an agreement. Last month’s federal funding deal runs out on Friday. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said over the weekend another partial government shutdown “absolutely cannot” be ruled out.  [Reuters]