1 December 2011

Atlantic Grey Seal Mating Rituals


Our final trip for 2011 was all about watching seal mating rituals and practice - it is not, in the main, a cute and fluffy image..... the wine was left in the fridge and the roses never left the shop.......

But it is nature, which is what we tend to photograph, and it is where next years cute and fluffy pups come from.....

For clarity, the male is pursuing the female and trying to pin her down so that he can mate with her. He will bite her, throw her around and generally do whatever it takes to get the job done, so to speak. That said the females do fight back, especially if they still have a pup in tow.

We don't use the R' word here - these are animals, not people, but it is particularly brutal....

This image shows the early stages of a pursuit in which the female is desperately trying to get out of the way.

This image also looks very sweet does it not? - looks like the seals are having a cuddle.

In actuality the bull is dominating the cow and attempting to subdue her into mating with him....... Very little of the cajoling you see with other species such as birds.... Of course the bulls must fight with, or at least scare off, rivals on the beach in order to get to this position.

That said you often see younger bulls sneaking in under the dominant male's radar so to speak......

Don't know about you, but I would be happy to receive this as a Valentines Card. The seals look as though they are in a passionate embrace.  The reality, as  I'm sure you've already guessed is somewhat different.

In this image the bull basically has the cow by the throat and is further demonstrating his power and dominance over her. The cow, shortly after this shot was taken took a chunk out of the bulls head, making what looked like quite a gash in his cheek.

Seal mating is not for the feint of heart.

So we get to the potentially dodgy stuff - as this series is about seal mating practice you should not be overly surprised to see seals mating.....  No stupid, or crass comments please - this series was, and is hard work to capture and put together....

Anyway the seals get together: As you can see the male has a sizeable gash on his cheek, where the cow fought back, he is also holding her by the neck - this is more to allow for a stable platform from which to mate than to keep her from "running", as by this stage the cow seems to have relaxed into her role as future mother to his pup.

Seals, like almost all other mammals use a Baculum, or penis bone, to gain the necessary stiffness to allow for mating - think about it, what a marvellous piece of evolution it is that allows such large animals to maintain a necessary streamlined state in water by allowing them to pull this significant bone into their abdominal cavity when not required.............

And so the next generation of seal pups is on its way - well, not quite actually. Grey seals mate at the same time every year (more or less) and yet they have a similar gestation period to humans.

The seal cow once inseminated enters into a state of embryonic diapause whereby the embryo is essentially in a state of suspended animation. Several months later the embryo will implant and a pup is finally on its way.

And with that I think I shall go and do something else :-) hope you enjoyed the series. and thanks for any feedback. Appreciate it.

Originally shown on our Flickr site >>>>>>

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