Are grey seals attacking porpoises? This new research says, yes.
According to a new report from The Royal Society, Britain’s national academy of science, gray seals may, in fact, be responsible for the large numbers of harbor porpoises washing up dead on Dutch shores between 2003 and 2013.
All in all, more than 1,000 porpoises were found mangled, washed up on beaches, and scientists were long searching for the cause.
Now, seals may not seem terribly fearsome, but they’re actually the largest carnivores in the Southern North Sea, growing as large as nine feet long from end to end, and weighing 550-plus pounds at their heaviest.
Researchers were stumped until they began noticing claw and teeth marks much like what gray seals leave on the fish they eat. Researchers managed to dig some DNA out of porpoise wounds and found a match. The result: Gray seals are, for the first time on record, attacking and killing porpoises.
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Researchers speculate that seals could be responsible for up to 17 percent of porpoise deaths in the area, which turns out to be a huge number. Why have seals started straying from their usual diet of fish? Researchers say they aren’t sure, but think gray seals may have developed a taste for porpoise meat after eating carcasses discarded from accidental net-fishing deaths.
They have also been warning swimmers in the Netherlands area that because gray seals have developed a taste for warm blood, swimmers should be cautious.