Scientists of the Mammal Research Institute at the University of Pretoria, found one instance of a male seal coercing a penguin into sex on Marion Island in the sub-Antarctic in 2006 but returned to witness an alarming increase in such instances with highly disturbing videos published in the online edition of the journal Polar Biology.
They found four instances where young male seals chasing, capturing and sexually mounting on them to attempt copulation several times, each one taking five minutes. Surprisingly the gender of the penguin is unknown, they said.
While in three instances the seals let go the penguin but the fourth one had killed the penguin for food later. Sientists say the behaviour could be of a frustrated, sexually inexperienced seal.
The scientists are apprehensive that the situation could get worse. “Honestly I did not expect that follow up sightings of a similar nature to that 2006 one would ever be made again, and certainly not on multiple occasions,” Nico de Bruyn, of the Mammal Research Institute at the University of Pretoria, told BBC. “I genuinely think the behaviour is increasing in frequency.”
They find it strange among the pinnipeds or the group of seals, fur seals and sea-lions together is known. They are never known to have had sex with an animal from a different biological class altogether.
De Bruyn’s observation is that seals learn from others quickly. They must have seen other male seals chasing and mounting penguins, to follow it themselves at a later stage.
Penguins belong the birds species and do not have external sexual organs but have na opening called a cloaca which acts as a facilitator during mounting called “cloacal kiss”, in which the sperm was transferred to the female.