Seals FEED on sharks after scientists uncover evidence of bloody struggle
REVENGE is sweet for a special bunch of seals who risk snacking on sharks for a bloody treat.
Scientists found that the dinner tables have turned, with nasty physical injuries found on a select few leopard seals in New Zealand, as well as traces in their poo.
The discovery is a world first, suggesting the sea creature goes in for the kill against sharks rather than simply chomping on any dead remains they find.
"We were blown away to find that sharks were on the menu," said Dr Krista van der Linde who led the research.
"But then we also found Elephant fish and Ghost sharks were also being hunted by the leopard seals.
"These fish have large spines to help protect them from predators and sure enough there were wounds on the leopard seals, sometimes even big spines embedded in their faces, one leopard seal had at least 14 such wounds.”
Leopard seals are already known for being apex predators with a taste for penguins and even other seals.
It's unclear why they go for a risky meal like sharks as well.
Researchers are also trying to figure out whether this is a new thing or whether they've always had an appetite for sharks.
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They've had to sift through the poo of one hundred leopard seals "like a real-world CSI show" in order to confirm it, Dr Lara Shepherd said.
The study was done by a team from the WWF in New Zealand and LeopardSeals.org, a group which collects leopard seal poo.
Co-founder Dr Ingrid Visser said she's been studying killer whales known for eating sharks for the last 30 years but adding seals to the mix changes everything.
"To know there is another marine mammal also munching on sharks, well, that has implications for the whole food web and our understanding of how it all is interlinked," she said.
Their findings were published in the Frontiers in Marine Science journal.
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