Gruesome gulls

Seal breeding colonies are a fascinating place – while sitting quietly conducting our observations on our study seals, we get to see a entertaining range of aspects of biology on the seal colony. Here’s one we see quite often – a gaggle of great black-backed gulls squabbling over a seal afterbirth – the remnants of the placenta that is passed  by the female shortly after giving birth to her pup.

A placenta is quite a rich resource for gulls on an offshore island during the lean months of late autumn – valuable enough to cause some prolonged ‘debates’ over who gets the prize!

Whilst the placenta is of no use to the seal after the pup is born, these gull squabbles can often distract a mother seal with a new-born pup – and we often see mother busy chasing off the gulls (there is a risk that a gull could peck at and injure a new born pup), rather than focusing on establishing a good mother-pup bond.

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What a mother should be doing with a new born pup – bonding and getting some fat rich milk into the pup!

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