During mating season, male seals usually have one thing on their mind. For about three months, the seals conserve all their energy to mate, or at least try to, with nearby females on the beach. But not all heroes wear capes, some weigh two tons made of fat and are willing to sacrifice precious energy to save a puppy from drowning without even trying to get along with its mother.
A group of National Park Service wildlife biologists observed a rare act of altruism by an elephant seal while surveying a colony at Point Reyes National Seashore in California. In a recently published article paper In the diary Marine mammal science, the authors describe how they were walking along the shore on a sunny day in January 2022, when they noticed a female seal calling to a two-week-old pup that had been swept into the water by the waves and was struggling to stay still. afloat. A nearby alpha male ran to the scene and exchanged a brief interaction with the female before turning his attention to the source of her urgent call: a choking cub.
The male seal charged across the wet sand toward the water, using his head and body to gently push the pup as he swam toward shore. When the tide receded, the gentle giant again used his body to anchor the baby seal and prevent it from being swept out to sea, according to the newspaper.
Finally, mother and cub were reunited and the crying lifeguard needed to rest, lying down in the wet sand after making sure his mission was a success.
Although some species occasionally display heroic behavior, male marine mammals are not known for their self-sacrificial qualities. In fact, they rarely take care of their cubs and instead dedicate themselves exclusively to mating.
From mid-December to late March, northern elephant seals fast during the breeding season, using their energy to mate with females or protect their harem from other males. “(The alpha male’s) subsequent behavior of chasing the pup and pushing it to shore could be interpreted as misdirected sexual behavior, in which dominant males frequently herd and escort females to shore to thwart harassment by other males.” “wrote the researchers behind the article. . “However, we propose that the actions were intentional, where the male redirected his attention from the distressed female to that of the cub; appearing to take a deliberate action, running beyond the surf at a considerable distance from the female and her harem.”
Researchers also note that after the mother and pup were reunited, the male seal did not attempt to approach her, but instead collapsed on the shore after a successful rescue mission. A true hero.