Murderous Gulls Rip Out Baby Seals Eyes So They Can Feast On The Remains.
Murderous gulls have developed a hunting strategy never before seen in the animal world—eating the eyeballs of live seal pups, a new study says.
During the past 15 years, scientists have logged around 500 instances of kelp gulls (Larus dominicanus) attacking and attempting to eat the eyeballs of newborn Cape fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus) in Namibia’s coastal Dorob National Park.
Since blinded seals can’t find help from other seals and easily succumb to more attacks, the birds have discovered removing eyeballs is an especially efficient way to get a meal.
The behavior seems to be entirely new to science—if a little tough to stomach, says study lead author Austin Gallagher, a postdoctoral researcher at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.
“What most would consider a pain in the ass, I would consider it brilliant,” says Austin Gallagher, a scientist who generally studies large marine predators. “They can learn instantly and are fiercely competitive. Gulls are incredibly adaptive and intelligent birds. They are essentially the marine version of the crow, but with stronger wings to cope with coastal winds.”
- Murderous gulls pluck out baby seals eyes :-( http://goo.gl/cFAjZ8 via @TheSealsOfNam Tweet
Gallagher has seen firsthand just how smart these animals can be when it comes to obtaining their next meal: last summer when he was in Namibia, he and his colleagues observed a bizarre feeding behavior that can be best described as ruthless.
“The beach where I was touring was riddled with seal carcasses, many with their eyes missing,” he recalls. “Knowing that gulls are considered to be very adaptive, I knew there would be a chance for this amazing natural history ethogram to contribute to the scientific literature.”
Gallagher watched as kelp gulls (Larus dominicanus) snuck up on newborn or sleeping seal pups and quickly and viciously plucked out the animal’s eyes, which they greedily consumed if they succeeded. About half of the time, the gulls failed to complete their assault, either because the young seals fought them off or were saved by a more alert friend. The other half of the time, though, it took about two minutes for the birds to blind the unfortunate animals and gobble down their gooey prize.
Then the gulls would leave the seal the now-blinded baby or juvenile to die, returning to feast on its carcass.
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