A male elephant seal rescues a drowning pup in a rare act of sentient heroism

A male elephant seal rescues a drowning pup in a rare act of sentient heroism

During mating season, male seals usually have one thing on their minds. For about three months, the seals reserve all their energy to mate, or at least attempt to, with females nearby on shore. But not all heroes wear capes, some weigh two tons and are made of fat, and are willing to sacrifice precious energy to save a puppy from drowning without even trying to communicate with its mother.

A group of National Park Service wildlife biologists observed a rare act of altruism by a bull elephant seal while surveying a colony at Point Reyes National Seashore in California. In a recent post paper In the magazine Marine mammal science, the authors describe how they were walking along the beach on a sunny day in January 2022, when they noticed a female seal calling to a two-week-old pup that had been pulled into the water by the waves and was struggling to survive. afloat. A nearby alpha male rushed to the scene, exchanging a brief interaction with the female before turning his attention to the source of her urgent call – the drowning pup.

The male seal darted across the wet sand and into the water, using his head and body to gently push the pup as it swam toward shore. As the tide receded, the gentle giant once again used his body to steady the baby seal and prevent it from being pulled into the sea, according to the newspaper.

An image of the article entitled Male elephant seal saves pup from drowning in a rare act of inter-species heroism

picture: Matthew Lau

Eventually, mother and pup were reunited and the chubby rescuer needed a rest, lying down in the wet sand after confirming the success of his mission.

Although some species sometimes display heroic behavior, male marine mammals are not known for their self-sacrificing qualities. In fact, they rarely engage in caring for their young, and are instead concerned with mating.

From mid-December to the end of March, northern elephant seals fast rapidly during the breeding season, using their energy to mate with females or protect their harem from other males. “The subsequent behavior (of the alpha male) of pursuing the pup and pushing it to shore can be interpreted as sexual misbehavior, as dominant males often herd females and escort them to shore to thwart harassment by other males,” the researchers who conducted the research wrote. . . “However, we suggest that the actions were intentional, as the male redirected his attention from the distressed female to that of the pup; he appears to take deliberate action, running out into the surf a considerable distance away from the female and his harem.”

The researchers also noted that after mother and pup were reunited, the male seal did not attempt to approach her, but instead collapsed on the beach after a successful rescue mission. A real hero.

(Tags for translation) Elephant seal

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